Changing lifestyles and increasing access to processed foods has reduced our intake of fresh, nutritious, local produce, at the same time as our intake of fat, sugar, alcohol and additives is much higher. Approximately, two thirds of those who do not report mental health problems eat vegetables, fresh fruit or fruit juice every day, compared with less than half of those who do report daily mental health problems. Those who report some level of mental health problem also eat fewer healthy foods and more unhealthy foods. Healthy eating can help stabilize our moods better and even help reduce the risk of depression. A balanced mood and feelings of well being can be achieved by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water. Proper nutrition plays an important role when it comes to control mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
David Mischoulon, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital told Yahoo Health “If your diet is deficient in some nutrients, it can have many effects on the brain. It can be subtle in some people and may result in psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and so forth in others.” In University of Minnesota “Minnesota Starvation Experiment” which studied the effects on wartime conscientious objectors who volunteered for the study. The researchers found that when calories were cut in half, many of the participants developed eating-related rituals and became depressed and obsessed with food. Vitamin B -12 is naturally occurring only in animal products, and a deficiency in B -12 is associated with significant health risks including memory, cognitive function and mood. Recent studies have shown “the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet, or what we call the Western diet, to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet.
Mental health problems are believed to be the result of a combination of factors, including age, genetics and environmental factors. One of the most obvious, yet under-recognized factors in the development of major trends in mental health is the role of nutrition. A lot of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health, a healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for mental health. Fresh fruit and vegetables are usually cheap when they are in season. Beans, lentils and soy mince are also cheaper than meat and just as nutritious. Frozen fruit and vegetables are often cheaper than fresh produce and are usually just as good nutritionally. Cut down on sugary drinks, snacks, takeaways and alcohol, save money and buy healthier foods. Broadly speaking it means eating in a way so that:
- Our weight remains normal
- Our weight remains stable
- All necessary food groups and vitamins are available
- Eating remains an enjoyable experience