When it comes to our mental health, what we eat can have a significant impact. Studies have found that healthy diets can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety, while an inadequate diet can cause fatigue, hinder decision-making and slow down reaction time. In fact, a poor diet can even exacerbate and cause stress and depression. Existing research in the field of nutritional psychiatry suggests that our diet can affect our mental and emotional health.
The foods we consume affect our gastrointestinal system, which is directly related to our brain and the way we process emotions. Eating a complete, nutrient-rich diet can help improve mood, increase energy levels and help you think more clearly. When it comes to carbohydrates, research shows a relationship between what we eat and how we feel. Western-style eating habits are subject to special scrutiny in much of this research.
A meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the Linyi People's Hospital in Shandong (China) suggests that dietary patterns may contribute to depression. Additionally, dietary patterns are related to hippocampal volume in older adults, according to a study led by Felice Jacka, PhD, director of the Center for Food and Mood at Deakin University in Australia. A study led by Maria Izquierdo-Pulido, PhD, from the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Gastronomy at the University of Barcelona found that children who ate less vegetables, fruits, fatty fish and other foods related to the Mediterranean diet were more likely to have symptoms of ADHD. To ensure that you're eating the right foods for your particular circumstances, it may be helpful to seek professional support from a nutritionist.
Additionally, hydration and nutrition go hand in hand - but the wealth of information available can often overwhelm us and cause feelings of anxiety. That said, side effects in the case of nutritional counseling may include greater self-efficacy and better physical health. When you notice symptoms of a mental health condition, try to eat nutritious meals regularly throughout the day and reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods, alcohol, and excess caffeine while prioritizing good sleep hygiene. Personalized approaches such as mindful eating are the foundation of the growing field of nutritional psychiatry.
If you're concerned that you're drinking too much or too little water, it may be helpful to talk to a nutritional therapist who can discuss your hydration needs. Prebiotics are foods that provide nutrition to bacteria that already live in the gut, while probiotics actually contain healthy bacteria.