Diet appears to play a role in mood and mental well-being. Research explains the connection. It appears that certain foods can help to improve our well-being, while others have the opposite effect. According to the European Neuropsychopharmacology journal, this is because our brain functioning depends on the availability of certain nutrients, which are found in certain types of food. These nutrients allow for our brains to function optimally. So, not getting enough of specific nutrients can affect your mental health. People with specific mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, and epilepsy), may benefit from altering their diets in different ways. Here’s what we know:
• Diets rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can improve mood and promote more positive feelings overall, and canreduce some symptoms of depression.
• There is evidence that diets low in carbohydrates and higher in from protein and fat reduce the frequency of seizures in children with epilepsy.
• Deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to fatigue, lethargy, depression, poor memory and is also associated with mania and psychosis. [Good sources of vitamin B12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and fortified breakfast cereals.]
• When pregnant women don’t get enough folic acid, their children have a higher risk of developmental problems and depression later in life. [Good sources of folic acid include leafy green (e.g., spinach), citrus fruits (e.g., orange juice), beans, bread, rice, and pastas]
• Not getting enough niacin (i.e., vitamin B3) can contribute to dementia, diarrhea, and itchy skin. [Good sources of niacin can be found in meat, poultry, red fish (e.g., tuna, salmon), cereals, yeast, legumes, seeds, milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea.]
• Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet – which focuses on whole foods and lean proteins (and cuts out processed foods and sugars) – is associated with higher levels of cognitive function later in life.
• On the other hand, diets high in sugar and fat can contribute to cardio-metabolic diseases, which have negative effects on cognition.
At this point, we know that the foods that we eat DO affect our moods, feelings, and cognitive function. A diet focused on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help to boost mental health. And specific supplements and diets are proven to help with certain mental health conditions.
Author: Alex Reed, MA