Sometimes it’s just too tempting to eat that extra potato chip or chocolate chip cookie. They’re made to be addicting, so it’s no wonder so many people regularly indulge in unhealthy food. But watch out — those sweet and salty snacks affect your body in ways other than expanding your waistline. Studies over the years have found that junk food and mental health are closely connected, with unhealthy eats having the potential to cause mental illness.
Logically, what you put into your body affects you on a physical level. But many people don’t consider the mental and emotional repercussions of what they eat. Nutritional psychology is a relatively new field, but doctors are continually working to unearth links between nutrient consumption and brain functioning. Existing studies shed much-needed light on the phenomenon of improving your mental health through nutrition.
This information may be surprising to you, but don’t panic — it’s not too late to improve your mental health. Dive into the wealth of information on nutritional psychology and learn some valuable advice for switching up your daily nosh. The effects of bad eating habits aren’t irreversible — soon, you’ll be feeling refreshed and full of energy.
The Connection Between Junk Food and Mental Health
A recent study from the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition revealed that Californian adults with unhealthy diets suffered higher rates of psychological distress than those who ate whole foods. This connection remained true even when scientists controlled for characteristics like age, income level and gender.
Similarly, scientists led a study involving 67 depressed adults where some of them received nutritional counseling and others underwent ordinary therapy sessions. The individuals receiving nutritional support displayed heightened rates of remission compared to the control group.
Fried fast food and sugary drinks have high associations with ADHD, depression and bipolar disorder. The relationship between junk food and mental health isn’t always causal, but enough evidence exists to show that poor eating affects your health in multiple areas. The chemistry of your gut and your brain are remarkably alike, which means whatever you put in your body impacts your mind. Junk food facilitates pro-inflammatory molecules, which travel to your brain and cause injury and stress to brain tissue.
Scientists agree that the “Western Diet” — which many of us are on, whether we like it or not — is one of the unhealthiest lifestyles. It may seem hard to escape excessive sugar and fat when they’re in most of our meals, but luckily this isn’t the only food fad to choose from.
Healthier Meal Plans
Wanna know an effective way to beat the blues? Add veggies, nuts, and healthy oils to your fridge. In other words, chow down on some Mediterranean cuisine. This diet is a staple of countries like Italy and Greece, and it’s high in unsaturated fats and fiber. Various items within typical Mediterranean fare undergo fermentation, which produces dishes rich in probiotics. Raw, unprocessed sustenance is common to coastal eating, and it’s full of nutrients. When you eat food as it naturally occurs, you receive additional health benefits. For example, if you often suffer from acid reflux, common Mediterranean staples like olive oil, and dark green vegetables can cool the burn.
Supplement Your Eating Habits with Vitamins
Although increasing the number of whole foods you eat should be your ultimate goal, it doesn’t hurt to add some vitamins into your lifestyle. Be aware of overlapping specific ones, however, as some may cancel each other out. B vitamins in particular help with numerous areas of the body — a lack of them can lead to brain inflammation.
You’ll find vitamin B12 in animal products, but consuming it leads to beneficial growth within nerve cells and brain tissue, so vegetarians and vegans should be supplementing this vitamin. Its function within the body is necessary for creating healthy red blood cells — it’s how you avoid pesky cases of anemia.
Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin, helps with cell communication and metabolic processes. It exists mostly in animal products, but there is a version in plants. Again, supplementing it can be very helpful if you live by plant-based eating.
Supplements containing B7 help break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins within the body, and they also strengthen your hair, skin and nails. Who doesn’t benefit from a healthy mane and glowing skin?
Good Health Requires a Multi-Tier Approach
Now that you know about the connection between junk food and mental health, you can make more informed decisions about what you eat. Fast food may taste great, but what is it doing for your body over the long term? Indulge in moderation and implement whole foods as your primary nutrition source to build a better mind and body.