The impact of food on mental health remains a controversial subject. However, managing health and wellness needs an all-inclusive dietary tactic on healthy diets containing the brain and gut’s supplements. The approach can balance other therapies and mechanisms used in managing mental health (Bremner et al., 2020). Healthy foods improve mental health, whereas unhealthy foods contribute to mood fluctuations, phenotypic obesity, cancers, cardiovascular illnesses, and others detrimental to mental health (Firth et al., 2020). Eating well implies consuming a balanced diet with nutrients and vegetables to boost overall wellness. However, the connection between whatever foods people consume and individual mental health is dynamic. This paper explores the effects of nutrition on mental health and finds that a healthy and well-balanced diet boosts moods and energy and guarantees clear thoughts.
Dyad Between Diet and Mental Health
A person’s mental health is linked to the diet they consume. Adan et al. (2019) argue that the impact of food on mental health relies on the nature of a person’s diet. As a result, his systematic review and meta-analysis of previous research show the significance of being cautious about dietary programs (Adan et al., 2019). Notably, the diet determines how microbes influence neurodevelopment that impacts moods. Similarly, Bremner et al. (2020) argue that dietary intake impact psychological welfare. However, Adan et al. (2019) suggest vitamin deficit cause increased mental ill-health such as retarded cognitive development. However, such negative impacts on mental growth among children would require dietary interventions to guarantee psychological health.
Although Adan et al. (2019) did not quantify the relationship between diet and mental health, other studies have found a correlation. Bremner et al. (2020) suggest a bidirectional association between mental welfare and diets using an extensive secondary investigation of various articles from 1980 to 2019. Specifically, Bremner et al. (2020) demonstrate that unhealthy foods develop mental health issues such as depression because of negative attitudes about their self-images. For example, people suffering from obesity due to unbalanced diets are susceptible to depression due to dissatisfaction with their bodies’ appearance. Furthermore, Bremner et al. (2020) argue that diets influence a person’s moods due to their impacts on brain functions. For example, proteins boost serotonin synthesis, improving the brain’s capacity to control depression (Bremner et al., 2020). Accordingly, high fats in a dietary program amplify the threat to psychiatric disorders.
Similary, Jacka et al. (2014) support Bremner et al. (2020) and Adan et al. (2019) perceptions that there is a great causal link between people’s psychological welfare and the foods they consume. Mainly, Jacka et al. (2014) argue that nutrition has direct and indirect impacts on people’s development of mental disorders. Specifically, Jacka et al. (2014) indicate that poor nutrition destabilizes the neurotransmitter systems, thus influencing moods. In addition, Jacka et al. (2014) support Adan et al.’s (2019) arguments that the gut microbiota depending on a person’s dietary intake impacts depression. These studies continue to build an informative background on the relationship between human diet and mental health.
The Effects of Diet Composition On Mental Health
A healthy and well-balanced diet contributes to proper thoughts and increased attentiveness. Conversely, a poor diet leads to poor decision-making due to fatigue and minimizes concentration time. Fuhrman (2018) argue that high dependence on processed foods with high sugars and flour is increasingly addictive. The dopamine center craves more of such foods than nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Hence, people should consider taking well-balanced diets to avoid cravings that alter a brain’s psychology. Healthy foods enhance the capacity to focus, have fewer mood fluctuations and have a happier outlook. Particularly, consuming lesser processed foods may improve brain thinking and emotional health.
Improved cognitive ability and attentiveness require regular eating to stop blood sugar level reduction, which renders an individual highly exhausted and ill-tempered. The foods should also enhance body hydration to boost mood, concentration, and energy level (Bremner et al., 2020). Therefore, the right proportion of fats is needed for proper brain functioning. Foods with recommended fats include nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, olive oil, oily fish, avocados, and rapeseed oil (Lehman, 2021). However, fat within packaged foods may be detrimental to a person’s mood and cardiovascular health, thus avoiding them. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have minerals and vitamins for a healthy brain and body (Lehman, 2021). The proper proportions of proteins in each meal add amino acids to the body to balance the diet, which the brain applies to control one’s mood. Consider gut health, which reflects one’s moods, by consuming healthy foods like beans, vegetables, fruits, and probiotics for better mental health.
According to Gomstyn (2022), carbohydrates are essential for enhanced meditation. The brain concentration and focus capacity require approximately 20% of the body’s energy (Gomstyn, 2022). The body generates the energy from blood glucose that originates from the consumed carbohydrates. Lack of enough brain energy leads to body weakness and incapacity to think creatively. Thus, regular meals with carbohydrates will maintain the body’s required energy (Tardy et al., 2020). Foods enhancing increased body energy, such as lower-fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, provide the body with necessary carbohydrates. However, regulating the amounts of carbohydrates is essential to avoid rapid blood glucose rise and falls that may influence moods, cause irritation or stimulate anxiety (Tardy et al., 2020). This way, consuming foods releasing energy slowly and in smaller quantities spaced out during the day is recommended.
The gut microbiome includes viruses, bacteria, archaea, and fungi residing in a person’s gut and aids digestion and immunity stimulation. The gut microbiota is influenced by food intake, antibiotic treatments, and genetic factors. Notably, a diet with high compounds that induce inflammation, saturated fats, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates on the gut lining causes injured mucosal and epithelial layers (Firth et al., 2020). These cause increased depression and adverse mental health issues and required probiotics to restore the gut microbiome. Probiotics are found in fermented foods. The live microbe is suitable for the digestive tract. Foods containing probiotics comprise miso, kimchi, tempeh and sauerkraut, and kombucha drinks.
Similarly, Schulze (2020) argues that ultra-processed foods (UPFs) have been reported as causes of depression among adults in the United States. UPFs foods are manufactured from industrial ingredients with insignificant whole foods—for example, bagged snacks, ice cream, and carbonated beverages. The foods have good tastes but minimal nutritional content, additives, and neo-formed contaminants. Consequently, they negatively influence intestinal flora and might result in mental disorders like depression.
Remarkably, a poor diet leads to stress and depression. These unhealthy diets mainly comprise processed foods and sugars that cause brain and body swelling, leading to anxiety and depression due to impeded neurotransmitter release (Fuhrman, 2018). Nonetheless, eating healthy foods boosts good bacteria development that significantly influences neurotransmitter production. Gomstyn (2022) argues that the brain gets desirable messages well and clearly due to desirable emotions enhanced by appropriate neurotransmitter production. But the mood drops when the neurotraumatic release falls.
Moreover, McGrath-Hanna et al. (2003) demonstrate that circumpolar individuals experience higher mental ailments due to variations in their cultures. Especially, a change from traditional foods to Western dietary plans increases mental disorders like anxiety and depression among circumpolar individuals living within extreme weather conditions in the arctic. McGrath-Hanna et al. further propose that vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids boost neuronal and cognitive development. Hence, deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients leads to depression and suicide among circumpolar individuals.
According to Firth et al. (2020), consuming more vegetables, nuts, white meat, and legumes minimizes an individual’s threat of depression. Nevertheless, Strahler (2020) indicates that consuming overly healthy foods may lead to obsession and possibly result in psychological distress or Orthorexia Nervosa (OrNe). OrNe leads to addiction to one’s nutritional quality, especially restrictive eating, notwithstanding the potential repercussions or medical challenges. In addition, OrNe leads to increased stress and body impairment. El Ansari et al. (2014) further indicate that uptake of unhealthy foods leads to depressive and stress signs. The study found that participants who took snacks, fast foods, cookies, and sweets had depression and mental suffering. Nevertheless, those who ate nutritional foods like salads, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables never exhibited any depression or psychological distress symptoms.
Moreover, Firth et al. (2020) argue that eating increasingly refined carbohydrates increases a person’s risk of depression and anxiety. These diets intensify the threats to poor mental health by recurrently and swiftly raising and minimizing blood glucose levels. Hence, the need for a well-balanced diet to boost mental health. In addition, deficit Vitamin D leads to depression and low moods. However using a Mediterranean diet –high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with moderate egg, poultry, and dairy production, with infrequent red meat-eating decreases the risk of depression to a Western diet (Firth et al., 2020). In addition, persons with a greater glycemic index are highly predisposed to depression. The Glycemic index indicates the rate of carbohydrate digestion, absorption, and metabolism within the body after consumption. Increased rates are associated with refined carbohydrates. As a result, the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and other psychological ill-health linked to refined carbohydrates.
Varying Diets Due To Human Diversities and the Impact on Mental Health
Differences in health outcomes of individuals in society impact their diet and further their mental health. Firth et al. (2020) note that healthy persons may suffer from likely impacts of diets high in the glycemic index, raising the risk of depression and anxiety. Moreover, repetitive fluctuations in plasma glucose arising from insulin secretion due to dietary glucose trigger a compensatory dropping of plasm glucose to levels that stimulate the production of other hormones such as glucagon and cortisol. Hormones are associated with irritability, appetite disorders, and anxiety (Firth et al., 2020). The phenomena also increase the risk of stroke and higher levels of dementia.
The western diet is alarmingly considered an aggregating factor to poor health outcomes. According to Firth et al. (2020), diets with increased saturated fats, such as the Western diet, can stimulate immune activation, for instance, increased body inflammation. Consequently, this leads to detrimental impacts on cognitive health, hippocampal role, and impaired blood-brain barrier. In contrast, eating foods from the Eastern world, such as Chinese and Japanese foods, has been casually claimed as eating medicine, which results in very low rates of inflammation and depression (McKenzie et al., 2022). In addition, depression scores are elevated in persons with dietary inflammation, hence the need to use anti-inflammatory compounds such as polyunsaturated fats to minimize depressive signs. In that connection, Liang et al. (2017) found that the Chinese have a low rate of mental health illnesses compared to Americans.
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People with food insecurity demonstrate a high prevalence of anxiety and depression. In a cross-sectional analysis of 2014 data for Gallup World Poll, Jones (2017) portrays that food insecurity and poor socioeconomic aspects intensify anxiety and depression across different cultures. The social factors affect the availability of well-balanced diets that increase mental health challenges related to poor diets. Additionally, sharing meals is healthy as it has social, psychological, and social gains by providing a sense of regularity and rhythm. Sharing foods increases the possibility of reflecting on daily routines and makes one feel connected to others, promoting mental health (Edwards et al., 2003). This way, the body feels relaxed and energetic.
However, a large population addresses higher degrees of stress, anxiety, and depression by turning to favorite foods for comfort. This means the use of pizza, ice cream, hamburgers, and pastries without realizing their detrimental impacts on mental health. Others depend on different addictive food colorings and preservatives that lead to or worsen depression and hypersensitivity (Adan et al., 2019). However, more awareness is crucial to guarantee that these people embrace whole foods like vegetables, fish, eggs, seeds, legumes, beans, fruits, fermented foods, and nuts to relieve their stressful state.