By Anchan Vegetarian
Can a poor diet affect my mental health?
You probably know that the food you eat affects your body.
Cutting back on junk food and choosing healthier options helps you maintain a
healthy heart, strong muscles and an appropriate weight. Your mood may also be
affected by what you eat. For example, have you ever felt down after eating a
lot of fast food? Do you have a more positive outlook after eating a green salad
or some stir-fry vegetables?
Medical researchers are studying the effects of dietary choices on mood and
mental health. This is sometimes called the “food-mood connection.” There are
many questions that haven’t been answered yet. For example, do vitamin
deficiencies make people feel more depressed? Do dietary supplements only
improve the emotional wellbeing of people who have nutritional deficiencies?
What amount of a certain supplement will improve a person’s mental health?
Mental illness is a serious issue. In some cases, it can even be
life-threatening. If you are struggling with mental health issues, talk to your
family doctor. He or she can help you find the right type of treatment.
Studies about the “food-mood connection” have been limited and have shown mixed
results. Because so many questions remain, dietary changes are not recommended
as a substitute for professional treatment of mental health problems like
Limited evidence does suggest that certain nutrients may support emotional
wellbeing. All of these nutrients are part of a balanced diet. Proper nutrition
is likely to keep you feeling better physically and emotionally.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health by reducing “bad” cholesterol in your
body and increasing “good” cholesterol. Omega-3 has also shown promise for
improving mental health. In some studies, people who took omega-3 supplements
reported improvements in their mood. Researchers think that omega-3 fatty acids
may affect the way your brain sends signals throughout your body.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in seafood, such as salmon, herring, sardines and
mackerel. They can also be found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
Tryptophan is an amino acid (a building block of protein) that your body needs
so it can produce a chemical called serotonin. People who have depression often
have a low serotonin level. Studies have examined the use of tryptophan to treat
depression, but there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend this use.
Tryptophan can be found in red meat, dairy products, soy and turkey.
Magnesium is a nutrient that helps your body produce energy. It also helps your
muscles, arteries and heart work properly. Some researchers are studying whether
patients who take extra magnesium recover more quickly from depression.
Magnesium can be found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts and
Folic acid and vitamin B-12 are B vitamins that play an important role in
metabolism (the pace of your body’s processes) and production of blood cells.
They also are related to chemicals called dopamine and noradrenalin. In many
cases, people who are depressed don’t have enough of these chemicals. Increasing
a person’s levels of folic acid and vitamin B-12 may increase his or her
response to medicines that treat depression.
Folic acid is found in foods such as leafy greens and fruits. Vitamin B-12 is
mainly found in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products.
There is a unique interaction between folic acid and vitamin B-12, where an
overdose of one inhibits the intake of the other.
So to make sure that you do the right thing, always confirm your initiatives
with a trained medical physician and do not self-medicate or over medicate
beyond the prescribed doses.
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