It is proven that food can have an impact on how you feel. But, in the long run, could your diet be related to your mental health?
There is a thing that happens almost every single time someone decides to look after their bodies: they pay extra attention to what they eat. This seems logical and, honestly, necessary. However, not too many people are thinking about how food can affect their brain.
Of course, if you think about it, it is quite safe to say that nutritious food is healthier for your brain as is for your body, but some studies have shown that, among all the healthy diets out there, there is one that is better than the rest.
In a recent review published in Molecular Psychology, researchers analyzed 41 studies that sought to quantify the impact of various diets on clinical depression. The analysis accounted for a variety of eating plans including the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the Healthy Eating Index.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet is the one that's healthier because it features abundant fruits and vegetables, olive oil, dairy products like yogurt and cheese, cereals, beans, fish and poultry, and moderate amounts of red meat and wine.
Drew Ramsey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and the author of Eat Complete, says the Mediterranean diet may have a positive effect on mental health because it helps fight inflammation. “Molecules that are responsible for inflammation influence things like your mood and energy levels,” says Ramsey. “For example, inflammation gets in the way of the brain’s self-repair process. Many antidepressant medications are also powerful anti-inflammatories that spur brain growth.”
On top of that, Ramsey recently conducted a separate study that looked at which foods are highest in the 12 nutrients associated with preventing or relieving depression. Low levels of folate and B12, for example, are associated with depression, and the symptoms are often relieved by taking in more of those vitamins.
However, there is no such thing as magical food. “We want to shift [the conversation away] from singular foods and diets and into talking about food categories,” says Ramsey. “As a clinical psychiatrist, it’s intriguing to think about food interventions and how they could shift an entire organism. What happens if I get someone using food for a more diverse microbiome, lower overall inflammation, and more connection to a sense of self-care? Those are all great things for someone struggling with mental and brain health."
So, the question is: are you taking care of your mental health as well as you are taking care of your body? With all this information, now you can feed your brain!