“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits & their habits decide their futures” F M Alexander
The notion that what we put into our mouth has a direct impact on our mood is not a new one. Who can dispute that feel good feeling that comes with eating a couple or more of Tim Tams or a bag of greasy fries? The Oxford Dictionary added the word ‘comfort food’ in 1997, thus making this well known label a concrete phenomenon.
Food has long provided us with psychological support in times of need. But it is not just the psychology of food but also the physiology of it that provides comfort – the link between eating and feeling better definitely makes sense. And is one most of us have all experienced. And the reverse is also true. Have you noticed the effect of eating a large, carbohydrate-laden meal at lunchtime? You know that tired lethargy that creeps in and makes you want to zzz instead of work?
If you think about it, when we were very young, our caregivers fed us comfort foods when we needed them most, and many of our happiest memories are often associated with food or eating. It is no coincidence either that the foods we crave when we are feeling down are those that are of the chocolate or chips variety – foods that are full of fatty acids, or high in sugar and which give an instant surge of dopamine. This creates that feel good effect, and hence the idea of comfort food. So these comfort foods, often sweet, or fatty and or carbohydrate-rich provide immediate psychophysical benefits. Foods that contain elevated levels of fat and sugar trigger the release of insulin and endorphins that lessen the experience of sadness and increase the experience of happiness.
Approximately 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime
Nutritionists are now saying that the rise in mental health problems over the last half-century positively correlates to the rise in processed foods. With statistics showing that in Australia, approximately 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. The most common of these mental health conditions being anxiety, with one in four Australians experiencing it at any one stage of their life. The rates for depression are one in six. With these staggering statistics in mind, it makes sense to understand that a nutritious diet isn’t just good for the body; it’s good for the brain too. We know too, that the gut is our second brain, and that there is a strong brain-gut connection.
Food such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that are all vital for optimum functioning of our bodies
In developed countries around the world, a large proportion of the population are eating a greater variety of foodstuffs everyday, however, the nutritional content of these foodstuffs is not necessarily good for brain health and ultimately is affecting your mental health too. The thinking today is that many mental health conditions are associated with inflammation in the brain which causes our brain cells to die. This inflammatory response begins in our gut and is a derivative of the poor nutrient content of our food such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that are all vital for optimum functioning of our bodies.
You have so much power and influence over your mental health. It starts with one small step. Learning to shape your diet in a way that includes nutrient dense, high quality foods that come from nature, you can minimise your risks of developing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.