September 22

Are You Eating for Good Mental Health?

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by Julie Baker

Depression and other mood disorders are increasing in the United States. According to one report, almost 10% of young people have major depression. Approximately 7 million senior adults in the U.S. feel depressed. Why are these mental health problems on the rise? The surprising answer may have to do with what you eat.

Junk Foods Make Mood Disorders Worse

Can eating a lot of junk food cause depression? Maybe, maybe not. What scientists do know is that a poor diet increases your risk of depression. Not getting the nutrients your brain needs can make your mood, and mental health disorders, worse.

Do you remember the sugar rush you get from eating too many sweets? Then you already know what comes next: a devastating crash that leaves you tired, sluggish and depressed. That's what junk food does to your emotions.

For some people, caffeine is a major anxiety trigger. A cup of coffee can wake you up, but it can also give you the jitters. If you have frequent stress and anxiety, or you stay awake worrying at night, try eliminating caffiene from your diet for a few weeks and see if it helps.

Good Foods Help Your Mood

If you feel depressed or stressed from time to time, making sure you follow a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do. Even people who have major depression or anxiety disorder can benefit from eating nutritious and delicious natural foods:

  • Less anxiety and stress
  • Happier outlook
  • More energy
  • Better mental focus
  • More balanced mood
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Greater feeling of wellbeing

In other words, good foods can help you wake up with a brighter attitude. You probably can’t completely avoid feeling sad or stressed sometimes, but you can add more happy days to your calendar.

What Foods Help With Depression and Anxiety?

Several recent studies show that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to feel depressed. Try adding these natural superstars to your diet:

  • Salmon, tuna and other wild-caught fish
  • Olives and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Colorful berries, citrus fruits and melons
  • Leafy greens
  • Tomatoes, mushrooms and other veggies
  • Avocados
  • Almonds, cashews and other nuts
  • Green yogurt and other probiotic-rich foods
  • Eggs
  • Turmeric, garlic, ginger and other spices

The reason these delicious ingredients give your mood a boost is that they contain large amounts of nutrients for brain health. You get B vitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and zinc.

The Close Connection Between Your Gut and Emotions

Taking care of your gut is good for your emotions. Many neurotransmitters that affect your mood are produced in your gastrointestinal tract, sometimes called the “second brain.” About 95% of your body’s serotonin, the “happy hormone,” comes from your gut.

The opposite is true as well. Eating too many refined sugars and other junk foods can trigger inflammation in the GI tract. In turn, this can cause feelings of anxiety, stress and irritability.

Unforgettable Meals With Great Friends

If there's one thing a Mediterranean diet can teach you, it's that good physical health isn't the only reason to celebrate good meals. Tasty, fresh foods bring people together. Grilling herb-rubbed salmon and preparing a salad from your garden is good for your actual heart, but the smile of loved ones is amazing for your emotional health. Make healthy eating a lifestyle. You won't believe how much it helps your mood.


Tags

Food, Health, Healthy, Snack


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