How Does Eating Healthy Affect Your Mental Health


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How Healthy Eating Helps

How food and nutrition can affect your mental health

Mom was right: You’ve got to eat well to function well. Just in case you didn’t gobble up Mom’s wisdom, here are some useful tidbits.

Among other benefits, good food can:

  • boost your energy
  • lower the risk of developing certain diseases
  • provide fuel to your brain
  • counteract the impact of stress on your body
  • affect mood-related body chemicals

In an unhappy twist, good nutrition can help at times of stress, but that’s exactly when lots of us tend to eat less well. According to a recent survey nearly half of Americans overeat or eat unhealthy food to cope with stress. In fact, it’s not just that we’re seeking creamy comfortour stress hormones actually give us the munchies.

Still, if you follow some reasonable guidelines you may be able to reduce your stress and promote your overall health and well-being.

How Can I Improve My Eating And Drinking Habits

People with mental health disorders can use the same strategies as everyone else to eat a balanced diet, drink enough water, and limit their intake of caffeine and alcohol.

However, some people with mental health disorders might have more difficulty than others because of:

  • lack of motivation
  • loss of appetite, or comfort eating
  • using drugs or alcohol as a coping strategy
  • irregular meals
  • financial insecurity

If you are struggling to eat and drink more healthily, these strategies might help.

  • Mindful eating: If you concentrate on what youre eating, you will probably eat more healthily. For example, people who eat while watching television tend to eat too much at one sitting. Practising mindfulness and being aware of what you are doing has its own benefits.
  • Healthy food swaps: It can be easier to make small changes than big changes. Theyre more likely to stick. Swap white breads for wholegrain breads. Swap the frying pan for the grill.
  • Going easy on yourself: Change doesn’t usually happen overnight. Take small steps to improve your food and drink intake, make changes and practise positive self-talk.

Some of those changes will be easy, others will be harder. Youll stick with some, and not stick with others. In time, they will become healthy eating habits that come naturally.

Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health

Aug. 20, 2015 — What’s for dinner? The question is popping up in an unexpected place — the psychiatrist‘s office.

More research is finding that a nutritious diet isn’t just good for the body it’s great for the brain, too. The knowledge is giving rise to a concept called “nutritional psychiatry.”

“Traditionally, we haven’t been trained to ask about food and nutrition,” says psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University. “But diet is potentially the most powerful intervention we have. By helping people shape their diets, we can improve their mental health and decrease their risk of psychiatric disorders.”

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans have some type of mental illness each year. The CDC says that by 2020, depression will rank as the second leading cause of disability, after heart disease.

It’s not just a problem for adults. Half of all long-term mental disorders start by age 14. Today, childhood mental illness affects more than 17 million kids in the U.S.

Recent studies have shown “the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet, or what we call the Western diet, to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet. The risk of attention-deficit disorder doubles,” Ramsey says.

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Diet And Mental Health: Is There A Link

Historically, mental health conditions have been treated with psychiatric therapies like counseling, medication, and sometimes hospitalization.

Today, an emerging field called nutritional psychiatry emphasizes how diet and nutrition affect the way people feel mentally. It aims to support treatment of mental health conditions with diet and lifestyle changes .

Its something we may have taken for granted in the past, but it makes perfect sense that the foods we eat have just as much effect on our brains as they do on the rest of our bodies.

One reason our food choices affect our brains so strongly is that our gastrointestinal system or whats more commonly referred to as the gut is actually very closely connected to the brain.

The gut is home to trillions of living microbes that have many functions in the body, such as synthesizing neurotransmitters that send chemical messages to the brain to regulate sleep, pain, appetite, mood, and emotion.

In fact, theres such an intricate network of interactions between the two that the gut has been nicknamed the second brain. Formally, the relationship between the two is called the gut-brain connection or gut-brain axis (

35 ).

Want to make your diet more nutrient-dense but not sure where to start? Check out Healthlines guide to healthy eating in real life.

Why Is Healthy Eating Important

dietHow a Healthy Diet Can Affect Your Mental Health

A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition. It protects you against many chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats, are essential for healthy diet.

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What Is Healthy Eating


Eating Healthy More Sustainably

In a world where the tendency to over consume is widespread, so is overeating and obsessing over food. Whilst these are deemed natural, a truly unhealthy relationship with our means of sustenance arises.

Did you know that anywhere from 10 to 30% of our daily energetic expenditure goes towards digestion? Once we stop eating, our body uses that energy to repair itself and detox.

Most of us eat out of habit, and not hunger, and also do not know how much or what we should eat.

  • Would you like to learn better eating habits?
  • Want to know how to lose weight fast?
  • Do you question how to really eat healthy?
  • Wonder if eating healthy can prevent diseases?
  • Want to learn what is intuitive eating?
  • Want to know how eating habits can improve mental health?
  • Interested to try mindful eating habits?

If so, you came to the right place.

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Improve Your Quality Of Life

Clinging to an unhealthy coping mechanism might make us feel stuck. Getting out of those negative patterns requires a huge individual commitment, but it can be lifesaving. If your behaviours fall under the criteria of an eating disorder, talking about it can help you seek the necessary and appropriate treatment. Everyone must eat and those with eating disorders need to eat enough to bring their weight up to what is natural and healthy for them. The more a person includes all types of foods in their meal plan, and enough of them, the less likely they are to engage in the physiological consequences, such as binge eating. Achieving normalized eating allows individuals to process the psychological functions of the eating disorder more deeply.

Best Diets For Mental Health

How does your diet impact mental health?

One landmark clinical trial, the SMILES study, demonstrated that a diet rich in plant-based foods may be a future treatment option for major depressive disorder. So even though there is no specific diet for mental health, clearly there are some eating patterns that are better for mental health than others.

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Eating Healthy On A Budget

Maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge for many reasons. One major barrier to healthy eating for many people is thinking that it costs too much.

In a recent blog, psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, M.D. suggests eating healthy does not need to cost more. He offers several suggestions for eating to support brain health while staying on budget.

  • Sardines and anchovies are reasonably priced at a few dollars per can and are the most nutrient-dense seafood. Canned wild salmon and canned tuna are other good options. They can be used in salad or to make salmon or tuna burgers.
  • Beans and lentils, Ramsey notes, are incredibly filling, nutrient dense, and rich in fiber. The best value, though it takes a little more time to prepare, is buying dried beans and lentils in bulk.
  • Frozen vegetables are equally as nutritious as fresh, but more available and less likely to be wasted. While frozen veggies wont work well in a salad, theyre great in soups, stews, stir-fries and other meals.
  • Buying in bulk. Brain healthy staples like oatmeal and brown rice are available in bulk.

The Big Question Is Why

While there is a need for further research, observational studies suggest, overall, that there is a link between what people eat and their mental health. Why nutrition may have this effect is still unknown, though.

There are several theories on how diet may influence mood or the risk of conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Some scientists believe that the inflammatory effects of certain dietary patterns might help explain the relationship between diet and mental health.

Several mental health conditions appear to have links with increased levels of inflammation. The authors of journal articles in

of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which affects mood.

Furthermore, early research shows a potential link between a healthy gut microbiome and lower rates of depression.

As diet plays a major role in the health and diversity of the gut microbiome, this theory is a promising explanation for how what we eat may be affecting our mental well-being.

Finally, there is the possibility that diet plays a more indirect role in mental health.

It may be that individuals with healthful diets are more likely to engage in behaviors that are also linked with a reduced risk of mental health conditions, such as engaging in regular physical activity, practicing good sleep habits, and refraining from smoking.

It is important to keep in mind that many factors can influence both eating habits and mental health.

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Fuel Up With Whole Grains

Whole grains are cereals like rice, wheat, and oats that are left fully intact during processing. Therefore, they contain more fiber and nutrients than refined grains, which have had certain parts of the plant discarded.

One recent study including more than 3,000 adults found that a higher dietary fiber intake was linked with lower risks of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress .

Whats more, the type of fiber found in whole grains may have anti-inflammatory effects when its digested in the gut, which may also benefit mental health via the gut-brain axis (

How To Make A Successful Change

Mood booster foods! Learn how certain foods affect your mood

For most people, attaining these health benefits is going to require some changes in diet. You may be feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different foods mentioned here. If youre struggling with where to start, dont feel like you have to throw out everything in your fridge and start over! Most fad diets and restrictive eating styles dont work because they ask you to make sudden, dramatic changes to your diet that are frustrating and impractical.

Instead, think about what kind of health improvements are most important to you and start looking for small steps you could take towards a slow but achievable change. For example, if you find yourself cooking with a lot of butter, think about recipes where you could swap some of it out for olive oil. While this may seem like an insignificant change, its easy to stick with because its simple. Over time, you can keep making more of these small changes until they add up to a big difference in how you feel.

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Choose The Right Drinks

Dehydration can cause fuzzy thinking, poor memory and tiredness. A sensible fluid intake is around 6 to 8 cups each day. At least half of your fluids should be water. But you can also include tea or coffee, herbal drinks, milk or milk substitutes, or fruit juice.

To protect your teeth, avoid having sweet drinks or juices between meals. To make water tastier, you can add strawberries or cucumber.

Caffeine is found in many ‘energy drinks’, as well as in tea and coffee. Caffeine is a strong stimulant that can cause sleep problems and increase anxiety. It can help to avoid caffeine or reduce the amount you have.

How Food Affects Your Mood And Mental Health

What you choose to eat and drink enters your body and affects your whole being. Sugary foods can cause you to develop cellulite, a cup of coffee can kickstart your day , and chocolate can instantly make you happy. Thats how powerful food is.

Certain foods contain nutrients or chemicals that affect how the brain functions and, as a result, affect your mood. Some foods can improve focus, ease mild depression, and increase your energy levels, while others can make you feel crappy.

If you feel gloomy or are in a foul mood, it wont hurt to eat the right foods to improve your mood. Read further to know what food or diet can help you improve your mood.

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Simple Diet Tips To Support Your Mental Health

If youre experiencing symptoms of any mental health conditions, you may want to work directly with a specialist, like a psychiatrist or psychologist, for individualized care.

On the other hand, if youre simply looking to make some straightforward changes to your diet to support your emotional health and wellbeing, here are a few suggestions you can start with.

As you read through these tips, remember that the overall quality of your diet is more powerful than any one decision you make in a day. Try to focus on a variety of healthy nutrients rather than just one individually (

How Can Food Affect Mood

Nutrition habits vs Mental health | Carolina . | TEDxYouth@InternationalSchoolAndalucia

Knowing what foods we should and shouldnt be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.

Improving your diet may help to:

  • improve your mood
  • help you think more clearly.

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The Importance Of Proper Hydration

About 60% of the human body is made up of water, and your brain is about 73% water. Thats why hydration is so important to your body and brain health. There are actually quite a few studies about dehydration, mood, anxiety, and depression.

One 2014 study found that drinking more water improved fatigue and alleviated confusion and bewilderment.

Other research has found that drinking plain water can lower the risk of depression and anxiety in adults. Even just 1.36% dehydration in young women caused headache symptoms and lowered mood, concentration, and perceived task difficulty.

How The Food We Eat Affects Your Brain

Amazingly, the food you eat affects neurons, which are the major cells of the brain. In the brain, an unhealthy diet that is rich in fats and sugars causes inflammation of neurons and inhibits the formation of new neurons. This can affect the way the brain works and contribute to brain disorders like depression.

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Effects Of Mental Health On Physical Health

Your mental health plays a huge role in your general well-being. Being in a good mental state can keep you healthy and help prevent serious health conditions. A study found that positive psychological well-being can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes.

On the other hand, poor mental health can lead to poor physical health or harmful behaviors.

Chronic diseases. Depression has been linked to many chronic illnesses. These illnesses include diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis.

Schizophrenia has also been linked to a higher risk of heart and respiratory diseases.

Mental health conditions can also make dealing with a chronic illness more difficult. The mortality rate from cancer and heart disease is higher among people with depression or other mental health conditions.

Sleep problems. People with mental health conditions are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders, like insomnia or sleep apnea. Insomnia can make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sleep apnea leads to breathing problems, which can cause you to wake up frequently.

Around 50% to 80% of people with mental health conditions will also have sleeping problems. Only 10% to 18% of the general population experience sleeping problems.

While conditions like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder may lead to sleep problems, sleep problems can also make existing mental health conditions worse.

The Most Common Mental Health Disorders Linked To Eating Disorders


Depression and anxiety tend to be relatively common. According to Marques, Being malnourished, as seen in anorexia nervosa, and eating irregularly and erratically, as seen in bulimia, can negatively affect mood states. Feeling that you are not good enough because your body does not meet the cultural ideal can produce anxiety and deep depression.

When individuals engage in normalized eatingeven for a few weeksand the body starts to receive adequate nutrition, depression commonly starts to lift for many. This then allows the individual to do more meaningful therapeutic work at understanding the underlying psychological issues. It is true, explains Marques, that some individuals who successfully normalize their eating may not feel relief from their depression or anxiety. They are however, still further along and better able to rule out the eating disorder as a contributor. Medications have been seen to be more effective when the body is fully nourished.

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