We’ve all heard the saying “eat for your health” -- but have you ever considered eating for your happiness? Poor diet can lead to a laundry list of health issues and a growing body of research is showing a correlation between ‘food and mood.’ The SAD diet (Standard American Diet), or Western diet, is one that consists of high-fat meats, dairy and highly-processed foods that are loaded with salt and sugar. This diet lacks fruits, vegetables and whole grains that provide us with the crucial vitamins and nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy -- both physically and mentally. This nutrient deficit can affect us in more ways than we realize.
The World Health Organization reports that approximately 300 million people around the world suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability. With such a startling statistic, it makes you think -- what role could my diet be playing in my mental health? Studies have suggested that B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids can provide protection from depression. One study done in 2006 showed an inverse relationship between depression and folate levels in men and depression and vitamin B12 levels in women, especially for smokers.
If you’re wondering whether your diet has been affecting your mental health, a good first step is to evaluate your food patterns to determine where you may benefit from dietary modifications. Cutting back on high-fat red meats in favor of leaner protein sources like fish or chicken, and reducing your intake of highly-processed snack foods in favor of whole fruits and vegetables, are two simple ways to ensure your body is getting the adequate nutrients it needs to support your body and your mind. Keeping a journal of foods and beverages you’ve consumed over a three-day period is a helpful tool to visualize how and where you may need to make changes.
Written by: Kelly Blasco, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Public Health Nutrition
2. World Health Organization