Imagine Health Weekly Blog - Psychological Benefits of Healthy Eating (14/6/12)
June 14, 2012
Psychological benefits of healthy eating
Would you believe that what you put into your body not only affects your physical well-being, but it can also impact your overall mental well-being? According to the World Health Organisation, eating a balanced diet is just as important for our mental as well as our physical health. With Ireland having one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe and over 60% of the adult Irish population being overweight or obese it is no surprise that over 400,000 people are experiencing some form of depression, as reported this week on Ireland's Depression Epidemic presented by Ray D'Arcy.
The reality is that our foods influence mood and contribute to the experience of both positive and negative feelings. We recognise this from our own experiences, when we eat good nutritious meals we feel better and when we gorge on high fats and sugary diets we get the initial high feeling for a brief time but often you end up feeling sluggish.
Mental health & Our Diet
Recent evidence suggests that a number of mental health conditions may be influenced by our food choices (Harbottle, 2007). Healthy eating can help reduce depression symptoms, reduce the chances of bipolar episodes, reduce anxiety and reduce the negative symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Eating regular, healthy meals can keep blood sugar levels steady which can reduce the dips in mood associated with depression and anxiety. Also, a healthy diet will limit the sugar intake, which will prevent sugar-induced spikes in energy from triggering episodes of mania. In addition, the symptoms of ADHD can be reduced by healthy eating, because low sugar diets and healthy eating can help improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity. Importantly, keeping alcohol intake to a minimum will help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD.
As it stands, there is not enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions yet about the effects of diet on mental health, but the evidence does suggest that a healthy diet is a protective factor for mental wellness.
Tips by Dr. Harbottle in a report on ‘Healthy Eating and Depression’:
· Eat regularly throughout the day
· Choose less refined high sugar foods and drinks and more wholegrain cereals, pulses, fruit and vegetables
· Include protein at each meal
· Eat a wide variety of foods
· Include oily fish (omega 3 fatty acids) in your diet
· Maintain a healthy weight
· Maintain adequate fluid intake
· If you drink alcohol keep within recommended limits
· Exercise regularly
For more tips click link below out: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/healthy_eating_depression.pdf
At the end of the day, it’s all about a balance in our lives. If you find yourself experiencing low moods or difficulties in coping with your lifestyle choices then Imagine Health have a range of mental health professionals available to help you. If you are trying to adjust your eating habits to become healthier it is important to consult a registered dietician for evidence based advice and further information.
World Health Organisation. Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health.
Harbottle, D. (2007). Healthy Eating and Depression: How Diet can Help Your Mental Health. Mental Health Foundation.
Wenk, G. (2010). Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings. Oxford University Press, USA.