If there’s one concept health researchers have come to agree on it’s this: What you eat matters.
Although they disagree on what is a healthy diet, medical experts have long understood that while certain foods can help to improve your physical well-being, others have the opposite effect.
Now, a new collection of evidence demonstrates that what you eat also affects your mental health. This review article published in December of 2019 in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology details the emerging evidence on how our diets affect our moods and mental well-being.
This is the new and exciting world of nutritional psychiatry.
The composition, structure, and function of the brain are dependent on the availability of the appropriate nutrients.
Certain mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety may need to alter their diets in different ways to support the structure and function of their brains (and guts!)
What does some of the research show?
- Several systematic reviews have shown that diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help improve your overall mood and general feelings of happiness it can also reduce your symptoms of depression – HERE is another reference
- Specific diets can help improve brain disorders. The ketogenic can drastically reduce seizures with someone that has epilepsy.
- Nutrient deficiencies can affect your mental health. Deficiency in B12 can lead to fatigue, lethargy, depression, and poor memory – it’s associated with mania and psychosis. When pregnant women don’t get enough folate, not to be confused with folic acid (which we don’t like), their children can have developmental problems – those children are more likely to develop depression as adults.
- There’s enough evidence that diet affects your cognitive function later in life, even though we don’t understand how it works in the body. The Mediterranean diet – which focuses on whole foods, lean proteins, and cuts out processed foods and sugars. The diets that are high in sugar and fat lead to “cardiometabolic diseases” – which harm cognition.
We still have a lot to learn about which specific diets work best for mental health.
I’m not holding my breathe for science to find a generalized diet that works best for everyone. If you want the best diet for you, it has to be personalized to you and your situation.
This is where it can get tricky and confusing but the main principles include:
- a diet focused on a variety of vegetables and fruits (bright colours and deep leafy greens)
- quality lean proteins
- whole grains, and adequate fibre
These are just a few basics to help optimize your brain and mental health.
The message is clear… What we eat does affect our moods, feelings, and cognitive function.
If you’re looking to improve your mood, cognitive function, or mental health we have a nutritionist as part of our team that can create a highly specific plan for you – even if you’re not ready for a full diet change.