It’ll Go to Your Head: Food and Mental Health
It’s widely known that certain foods can increase or decrease your weight. But food can also affect the state of your mental health. Let’s take a look at which foods make mental illness worse and which foods can help promote a healthy mind.
Mental Health at a Glance
1 in 5
Number of Americans who experience mental illness (1)
Number of Americans living with major depression (1)
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. (1)
Cost of mental illness in lost earnings in U.S. each year (1)
Percentage of those with a mental illness who do not seek help (1)
Food for the Mind
Below is a list of recommended foods that balance chemicals in the brain. (2)
Many cold water fish like salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which boost dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. Both chemicals are linked to depression. Fatty acids also help areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grains release glucose at a steady rate, instead of simple carbohydrates which spike blood sugar levels. Whole grains help us feel fuller longer and give the brain fuel over a longer period of time.
Lean proteins like fish, chicken, turkey, eggs and beans help balance serotonin levels and keep them regular. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression and anxiety disorders.
Greens like spinach, romaine, mustard greens and broccoli have high amounts of folic acid. Low rates of this acid can cause depression, fatigue and insomnia. The selenium in broccoli also helps us maintain a healthy immune system.
Yogurt with active cultures
The probiotics, or healthy bacteria, present in some yogurts have been shown in various studies to reduce anxiety and stress. They also help keep our immune system strong and ward off bad bacteria in the gut.
Habits and Foods to Avoid
If you suffer from anxiety, depression or any other mental illness, you’ll want to avoid the substances listed below. (7)
They spike your blood sugar, which can cause anxiety. “Sugar crashes” can also worsen depression.
One can of Coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. (3)
Caffeine can trigger panic attacks in those prone to anxiety.
3 out of 4 people who regularly use caffeine are addicted to it. (4)
Eating breakfast stabilizes blood sugar and metabolism rates.
31 million Americans skip breakfast each morning.(5)
Most dairy, fried, refined and sugary foods have no nutritional value and can lead to obesity. Obese Americans have much higher rates of depression.
People who suffer from obesity are 25% more likely to experience a mood disorder. (6)