Food ABSOLUTELY Affects Mental Health
Keeping yourself emotionally sound is a daily job. Working towards better moods, better thought processes, and better ways to deal with stress are important to keeping yourself emotionally more stable. New research has shown that certain foods can, in fact, affect nervous system and brain health.
For example, according to an article published in the Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, published online on August 17, 2013, children who ate a poor and unhealthy diet from birth were more likely to have problems with sadness, worry, and anxiety.
In an Australian study from 2011, diets that consist of “junk food” such as chips, chocolates, sweets, pizza, soda, and various other junk foods were associated with a worsening of mental health status during a 2-year period. I know from my experience with patients, as we clean up their diet, we see improvement in mood and mental stability.
Another Norwegian study involving over 23,020 women and children, consumption of junk foods during pregnancy and during the first 5 years of life predicted externalizing problems, such as aggression, hyperactivity, or tantrums, among children.
These are serious issues that can be prevented or at least improved by knowing how strongly diet correlates to nervous system functioning. Various other studies continue to support that poor diets lead to increased depression and anxiety and diets of whole foods and those that eliminate “junk foods” tend to improve anxiety and depression.
Trans fat or “hydrogenated oil” found in many processed foods and fried food items, has always been thought of as a cardiovascular risk factor. Aside from affecting the cardiovascular system, we now understand that trans fat can cross many systems throughout the body causing dysfunction. Trans fats don’t fare any better in mental health status studies than they do in cardiovascular studies and in fact, have been associated with worsening mental outcomes such as anxiety and depression.Ξ Trans fats have also been directly linked to increased risk of cancer.Ξ Ξ
To Eat Junk Food or Not to Eat Junk Food
I assume you are thinking right now. I feel pretty good. Maybe a feel a bit down at some times and have a little bit of anxiety, but it is manageable right? Or you are thinking, wow, I always feel pretty depressed and anxious, but it makes me more anxious to start thinking about changing my diet. How do I start? Who will help me?
Easy Guide to Giving up Junk Food
Take each of these steps all at the same time or give each step 1 week or more to accomplish. Once you master one step, then move onto the next step. I know some of you readers are already doing this and if you are, PLEASE share this blog with someone you think needs it. It may be their stepping stone to improved health.
1. Stop eating fast food If you are eating any fast food, STOP. Just don’t let yourself go there and start preparing at home better. Cut up cucumbers and carrots and bring dried fruit and almonds to take with you at all times so that you don’t find yourself extremely hungry while you are out. Some of all of these suggested snacks will buy you time until you get home and can cook yourself a meal from home. Bring your lunch to work. Either pack leftovers or start purchasing easy to bring foods for lunch such as salads, hummus and cucumbers, and healthy sandwiches.
2. Give up sweet drinks Do not drink soda, sweet coffee drinks (Starbucks is probably contributing to diabetes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks was supported by the pharmaceutical companies that make insulin and other diabetic drugs: just kidding), energy drinks, or anything else that is sweet, including JUICE. You should reserve juice for only special occasions. There are many studies directly linking the consumption of sweet drinks to increased risk for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease (still America’s number one killer).
3. Give up all candy Don’t eat candy bars, hard candy, candy mints, or any other versions of candy. I suggest my patients consume an extremely small amount of pure very dark chocolate if they need a tiny fix when they begin to tackle this step.
4. Give up all refined sugar in all forms including high fructose corn syrup, pastries, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. Learn to make your own baked goods using an alternative form of sweetener such as raw honey, pure maple syrup.
5. Give up fried foods When you go out to eat, don’t order the fries. Don’t eat chips that are fried. Purchase chips that have been baked rather than fried and move yourself into using more vegetables to dip rather than chips.
Okay that is enough for now. Once you have mastered these steps, you have done a great job of removing many of the junk food culprits. Now I know I left some off of this list, but I tried to pick the biggest ones to tackle first. If you have mastered this list and want more suggestions, send me a note and I’ll make a future blog on the next steps to eliminating all junk foods.