The emotional impact of current events is incredible. We are all experiencing the effects of inflation which is at its highest rate since 1982. Today, Americans are facing higher prices in food, gasoline, housing, and energy costs, as well as labor shortages and disruptions in supply chains. We are witnessing the Ukrainian war enfolding each day in front of our eyes and striving to adjust from the residuals of a two-year isolation period brought about as a result of COVID-19. I could go on and on regarding the overwhelming world events which have brought about a change in every aspect of life as we know it. Nothing remains the same. Statistics state 47.1 million Americans currently suffer from mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. The World Health Organization reports depression could be one of the top health concerns in the world by 2030. We do not have to be among these statistics. Evidence-based research shows how specific types of foods can positively impact our mental health.
Have you ever turned to food for Comfort doing periods of depression or during times of feeling anxious or upset? More often than not, the food of choice is high calorie, loaded with sugar, fat, and salt, such as chips, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, candy, cake, or pastries. Did I miss any? Evidence-based data reports it is a natural response to crave and desire sugary, fatty foods. Truthfully, they are delicious and bring Comfort. The brain senses the satisfying taste and, in turn, releases the neurotransmitter Dopamine throughout the body. The action of Dopamine on the body makes you feel good. Research states the release of Dopamine from food containing sugars, fats, and salt activates the same pleasure signals in the brain as cocaine or heroin. However, the repercussions of the pleasures are short-term and as detrimental as all other drugs.
The actions of Dopamine in relieving depression and anxiety are a natural response and not an issue. However, the problem is the addictive excessive and continuous intake of sugary, fatty foods. Scientific data respectively shows excessive consumption of these foods is detrimental to the body, promoting obesity, inflammation, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and the primary culprit of metabolic syndrome. In addition, they are a significant contributor to a fatty liver and many more debilitating chronic illnesses. Surprisingly, studies also report a continuous prolonged intake of excessive fats and sugars increases the risk of depression and anxiety.
Multiple studies show the positive effect nutrition has in relieving depression and anxiety. Foods high in B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids are most beneficial. Recently the inclusion of probiotics in the diet also shows the tendency to improve periods of depression and anxiety. This action is primarily due to the effects of the “Brain-Gut Axis as it relates to diet. Please revisit Food for Thought: Brain Health. A plant-based diet such as the Mediterranean or DASH diet provides all the necessary nutrients and Phytochemicals/antioxidants vital to relieve some of the risks of depression and anxiety.
Consuming a nutritionally balanced Clean Diet full of whole grains, fruits/vegetables, nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, and fatty fish relieves the effects of depression and anxiety and maintains overall health and well-being in the process. Far too often, we forget you are what you eat. Severe depression and anxiety are rampant in today’s world and, in some cases, may require medical attention. However, good, sound Clean eating habits are an excellent adjunct to medical treatments. Just be mindful, a hand full of almonds or a bowl of blueberries is just as effective in relieving depression and anxiety as a package of Oreos. So please, in these frustrating times we are currently facing, let’s Retrain our taste buds and Rethink our choices-Comfort Foods, Beware.