How Diet Affects Mental Wellbeing

We all know that what we eat impacts our physical health, but consistent evidence shows that our diet does also have an effect on our mental wellbeing. 

For our brain to function properly, we need to be getting the right amount of nutrients, so it’s logical that the food we eat will have an impact on our mental health, mood, and cognition.  

Research has shown that many foods that are typical in the western diet contribute to symptoms of depression. This includes refined and processed foods, fried food, sugary drinks, and other sugary and sweet foods. 

A diet consisting of a lot of these kinds of foods is known to increase the risk of inflammation in our body, as it causes the lining of our gut to weaken due to low amounts of ‘good bacteria’ and high amounts of ‘bad bacteria’. ‘Good bacteria’ provides a barrier against toxins, limiting inflammation. 

When we consistently eat a lot of junk food it can lead to an inflammatory response in our body, and over a longer period of time the body will be continually responding to this problem, which causes what we call chronic or systemic inflammation. This is believed to be a risk factor for mental health conditions such as depression. 

Anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, whole grains and ‘good fats’ found in avocados, extra virgin olive oil, and certains types of fish have been shown to have an impact on chemicals in the brain which regulate cognition and emotions, and are therefore linked to a lower risk of depression. 

Foods containing polyphenols may also have antiinflammatory properties. This antioxidant can be found in onions, berries, green tea, turmeric, and dark green leafy veggies such as spinach and kale. 

Interestingly, studies have indicated that the Mediterranean Diet has a positive impact on mental health.

This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains, and very limited in sugar and red meat, and is also widely regarded to be beneficial for physical health.