Food is something that should be used to provide sustenance to people. Back in the caveman days, people hunted and gathered for food that would sustain them. Nowadays, though, people no longer have to “hunt and gather.” In fact, they have a plethora of food choices at their disposal, and they often make poor decisions related to what they eat.
Not only can poor food choices, over time, lead to weight gain and even obesity, but studies have also shown that poor nutrition can negatively impact a person’s mood. On the flip-side, however, good food choices can lead to positive effects on mood.
Rates of depression are at an all-time high in America, and studies have shown that long-term bad nutrition can greatly increase the risk of depression, which is a debilitating condition with high rates of suicide among its sufferers.
Studies have also shown that poor eating habits can lead to increased feelings of stress. And, to make matters worse, when people are stressed, they often have overwhelming cravings for sugary foods, which, if indulged, only fuel this unhealthy cycle. Excess stress has also been shown to make the body more resistant to losing weight and more likely to collect weight around the middle of the body. Stress and being overweight or obese are both risk factors for heart disease too.
The connection between mood and food isn’t always a bad one. In fact, studies have shown that ingesting carbohydrates can lead to an improvement in mood thanks to the release of serotonin, a natural mood booster, that carbohydrate consumption triggers in the brain.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that reaching for chips or other starchy snacks is a healthy way to improve mood (it isn’t). What it does mean, however, is that good diet choices and meals that include complex, whole-grain carbohydrates can help to improve mood and overall feelings of well-being.
Overall Mental Health
The overall quality and nutritional value of a person’s diet can also affect his or her mental health. A poor diet, in which one is deprived of necessary nutrients and vitamins, leads to poor mental health, and a healthy diet leads to good mental health. This finding is especially pronounced in teenagers, though food and mental health are connected for people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Eating the right foods can also help people in terms of their mental clarity. Smart food choices typically lead to a clearer, more alert brain, better decision making skills, improved memory, and more. This makes eating the right foods especially important for students who want to perform well in school.
While healthy food in general can improve mental clarity, omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and walnuts, have shown to be particularly good at improving concentration and overall brain function.
As you can see, there really is a direct connection between food and mood, so take control of your feelings and your life by making smart, healthy choices.