When most people decide to embark upon a healthy eating plan, they are usually looking to get fit, improve some physical aspect of their bodies, or simply lose weight and tone up with a healthy diet and exercise. However, there is evidence to show that our diets can also affect our mental health, and that eating the wrong foods can have an adverse effect on our mental health. Eating a healthy diet, on the other hand, can improve a variety of mental health symptoms and disorders, according to mental health organizations. These organizations have made a strong link between ‘mood and food’, making connections between people’s eating habits and their moods, emotions, and mental well-being.
This type of connection is highlighted by many people that comfort eat. Of course, this provides only a very short improvement to mood and emotion, and is not the type of activity that mental health groups aim to condone. However, it is an example of how food can affect mental well being, and there are foods that can have a long term positive effect on our mental health and mood rather than a short burst, which is then followed by a real low.
Many people suffer from mental conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia, dementia, and panic attacks. There are a number of foods or food products that are thought to aggravate mental health conditions, and these include:
The type of foods recommended for optimum mental health are those that release sugars steadily rather than providing a sugar surge (which is what foods like chocolate do). Also, food rich in essential fatty acids are recommended. Some of the foods that are suggested by mental health organizations include oily fish, pumpkin, walnuts, and a variety of fruit and vegetables. Omega 3 oils, which are mainly found in fish and flaxseed, are known to improve many areas of health, and are thought to improve both physical and mental well being.
One nutritionist states: "A lot of people who I see with problems such as anxiety and panic attacks and PMS find a significant improvement in their mental health by changing their diet. Obviously there are a large number of factors affecting mental health but food is proving to be one of them."
Why does healthy eating affect mental health?
The lack of vitamins and nutrients in your diet can have a profound impact upon mental health. For example, links have been made between schizophrenia and vitamin B deficiency, highlighting how eating a diet that is not balanced in vitamins and minerals can affect both body and mind.
Food sensitivity can also play a large role in mood and mental health, and anyone that thinks that a certain food group or type of food affects their mental (or physical) health is advised to seek further advice and testing to check whether there is any food sensitivity.
Of course, it’s not just what we eat that can affect our mental health and mood but how and when we eat. Most of us lead hectic lifestyles these days, but it is vital that we take the time out to have regular meals, rather than just shovelling any old food down out throats as we rush to get from one place to another. Eating regularly is another important aspect, and a surprising number of people skip breakfast, barely have anything at lunchtime, and don’t really have a decent meal until the evening, which is a very poor way to plan a diet. Regular and balanced meals are vital to promote both physical and mental health.
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