What is your diet doing to your mental health & well-being? March 15, 2019
Have you ever noticed that you feel better on some days than you do on others? Well, it may just be something you ate.
About 17.5 percent of Australia’s population reported a mental or behavioural condition in the 2015 National Health Survey. This means that some 4 million Australians are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Anxiety was the most commonly reported mental health disorder, with about 2.6 million Australians reporting anxiety-related conditions, followed by about 2.1 million reporting depression and other mood disorders.
Anxiety, mood disorders and other mental health issues significantly decrease well-being and quality of life and many Australians struggle to determine the root cause of their depression or anxiety, and to find effective treatments to improve their well-being.
However, increasingly research is showing how what you eat can affect your mood and we are beginning to better understand the connection between diet and mental health. Scientists think this is because your brain is always working, managing your thoughts, movements, senses, breathing and heartbeat. All this work requires a constant supply of fuel, which your body gets from the food you eat, and it is the quality of the fuel that makes all the difference.
Like an expensive vehicle, your brain functions better on premium fuel. High-quality foods contain the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that nourish our brain and bodies, whereas poor-quality fuel that comes in the form of processed and refined foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat, negatively impact brain proteins.
Research has been able to show that a diet high in nourishing foods can protect the brain from oxidative stress, associated with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues and promote the growth of new brain cells. In a recent study of nearly 46,000 people researchers examined the effect of diet changes on symptoms of depression and anxiety. The results showed that weight loss, nutrient boosting and fat reduction diets could each decrease depression symptoms.
Improving your mental health and well-being through diet
- Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your everyday diet. A recent study of 12,385 randomly sampled Australian adults showed that eating more fruits and veggies increased the participants’ happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being within 24 months.
- Consider a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, beans, nuts, cereals, fish and unsaturated fats, such as olive oil. Recent research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet supplemented with fish oil reduced depression. The results last too – the participants in this study reported decreased depression six months after the dietary intervention.
- Keep mealtime simple, balanced and fresh. Consider ways to make healthy weeknight dinners more achievable. HelloFresh delivers fresh seasonal ingredients and healthy recipes so you can create wholesome and delicious meals without any of the usual hassle. So whether you are looking to shake up your dinner routine with some delicious variety, looking for creative vegetarian meals or you have a horde of fussy eaters to feed, there’s a plan to suit you! The key to better mental health and well-being may be right in front of you – sitting on your dinner plate.