Feeding Your Brain: Your Mental Health Will Thank You!

Feeding Your Brain: Your Mental Health Will Thank You!

-By DLC Children’s Outreach Specialist Jessica Liria, M.S.

It is not often that I see shoppers in the grocery store reading the labels of the food they purchase. I admit, I was not usually one to do this either. As I struggled with my weight, I realized it went beyond appearance—I was often tired, cranky, and just felt “blah.” As time passed by, I found myself seeking answers…and a solution.

As society has changed over the last 50 years—becoming more fast-paced and spending less time at home—our eating habits have evolved as well. Eating on the go, buying foods that are already prepared, and making our meals as quickly as possible have led to a market of highly processed and less nutritional foods. This takes an extreme affect on our overall health. Not only have we continued to see an increase in obesity, heart disease and diabetes over these past decades, we have also seen a rise in behavioral health challenges.

Do the foods and beverages we consume affect our mental health? Absolutely! Individuals who have diets high in fats, oils, and sugars have a higher risk of developing concerns related to depression and anxiety. These types of foods and beverages also have the power to increase cravings and dependency, leading to food addictions. A combination of the effects on the brain, and the increase in bacteria in the digestive tract, will leave us with the desire to eat these foods more frequently, and our mood is negatively impacted when they are not consumed.

Children that consume higher amounts of sugar and processed foods have an increased risk of developing Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and their risk of depression increases by 80 percent! Academic performance often suffers, and they are more likely to have mood swings and temper tantrums.

But who doesn’t like a slice of pizza or big stack of pancakes? While these types of foods are high in all those bad things mentioned above, it doesn’t mean we can’t indulge from time to time. It is important to remember to consume these foods and beverages in moderation and they should be viewed as an occasional treat instead of a daily meal.

When reading labels, pay extra attention to the amount of sugar and unsaturated fats the product has. Keep in mind, that breads and other carbohydrates break down into sugar, so be sure to eat unprocessed, whole grains. Beware of sneaky names for sugar, like corn syrup, dextrose, and sucrose. In fact, check out this list of 56 sneaky names for sugar: https://www.cityline.tv/2017/06/14/56-names-sugars-havent-heard/

Establishing a diet for you and your family that consists of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will not only improve physical health, but mental health too. Our bodies will thank us by providing us with more energy, quicker thought processing, and the ability to manage emotions and stress appropriately.

When explaining good nutrition to children, use the example of a car. We need to take care of our cars by ensuring it has the right quality of oil and gas to function properly. Just like our cars, we need to provide our bodies with the adequate “fuel” to keep it going. We only get one brain and one body in this one life of ours, so #StandUp for your health!

For more information on the connection between mental health and nutrition, check out these articles:

 

Aug 24, 2020 | Blog, Mental Health

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