"John Tantillo, Ph.D. is a TV, Radio and Social Media Branding Expert with over 30 years experience in Behavioral Health Care Branding"
We all know that eating poorly has physical consequences. It can lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions. But what often gets overlooked: The effects of diet on mental health.
A growing amount of research suggests there may be a connection between what you eat and your emotional well-being. It might even play a role in depression and anxiety. Given the research, it’s time to add diet to the discussion about mental health.
Effects of a Poor Diet
Let’s talk about the standard American diet. It consists of foods that are highly processed, pre-packed, and sugar-filled. Just think about a typical trip to the grocery store. The aisles are filled with dressings, sauces, cookies and other pantry items, filled with hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
These foods often lack important nutrients that allow your body to function at its best. And when you deprive your body of the nutrients it needs, it can have an effect on the mind. Foods high in sugar have in some studies been linked to chronic inflammation, which may be related to anxiety and depression.
These foods can also lead to gut health issues. While research is still limited, it’s believed that there is a connection between the brain and digestive processes, with a negative effect on mood.
Food for Fuel
Now that we know the connection, how do we optimally fuel both our bodies and minds? To start, need to focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods. This includes foods like wild salmon, leafy greens, and nuts. Consciously limiting added sugar intake and checking food labels for real ingredients is another great place to start. Getting into habits of healthy eating may boost energy levels and overall mood.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s easier (and most of the time cheaper) to swing by the fast food joint on the way home. Many of us sit in office jobs where the break room donuts and happy hours of pizza and wings can be hard to resist. But taking a step back and breaking out of these bad food patterns may help you feel better both physically and emotionally.
While adjusting diet should be a part of the conversation surrounding mental health, it’s still important to seek out help from a mental health professional.