by Majdi Khamis

YES! YES! YES! The truth is the quality of our diet significantly impacts our mental health and wellbeing. Numerous studies and research from around the world have been investigating the correlation between diet and mental health. They concluded that poor and unhealthy diet has an extensive impact on our mental health conditions and may lead to depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. “How could poor diet shape the state of our minds?” you might be asking right now. Well, I got the answers for you:

  • Junk food and sugary diet tend to cause a boost of energy. Blood sugar gets too high then it falls too low. This is known as a sugar rush, and this will lead to lethargic feeling and poor concentration.
  • Consuming too much of caffeinated drinks, such as energy drinks, could lead to anxiety or insomnia as caffeine increases mental alertness.
  • A healthy diet is essential for the body, as well as the brain. The brain needs nutrients to function properly and a poor diet, such as processed food, contains few to no nutrients values. These foods contain empty calories and won’t supply the brain of the daily required amount of macro and micronutrients. If this happens, depression, anxiety, stress and other mental disorders follow.

The New Zealand Mental Health Foundation published a Health Survey for 2012 and 2013 that states 16% of New Zealand adults had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some point in their lives. This news followed with a staggering number of 606 Kiwis who committed suicide just this year, a statistic released by Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall, raises a red flag to the state of our country’s mental health issue. Most especially because the statistic consists mostly young adults! 16% may be a small number for some but when our young adults transitioned to adulthood, this number will grow. There are a number of methods that could help in dealing and preventing mental disorders and a healthy diet is the simplest and easiest one we could do.

Have regular meals throughout the day.

Generally speaking, people who have 5 to 6 small meals during the day gain sustainable energy levels and better mood. This is based on the fact that regular eaters get frequently glucose out of food which is essential for providing the body and the brain with energy while leading to a stable blood sugar levels.

Substitute processed food, refined carbs and sugary food with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Sugary, processed, and refined foods are low in nutritional values and high in calories. Several studies have shown that people who consume refined carbs and sugar are more prone to depression than people who consume wholegrain, fruits and vegetables.

Include protein in your three main meals.

There are 20 amino acids that construct protein. Some of these are essential for the brain function. Proteins are responsible for neurotransmitters and making up enzymes and hormones. People who lack some amino acids are prone to low energy levels, anxiety, and depression as they have unstable blood sugar level.

Colour your meals with a variety of food.

Eating a variety of food from each food group will ensure supplying the body and the brain with as many nutritional values as possible. Food variety in a healthy diet will boost the body with carbs, protein, healthy fat, vitamins and minerals. All of which will maintain a healthy body and mind.

Add some food sources rich in Omega 3.

Fish oil is essential for maintaining a healthy brain. Omega 3 has an incredible effect in fighting depression and anxiety, as well as other mental disorders. Several studies found that people who consume Omega 3 on a regular basis have their mental health improved significantly.

Stay hydrated!

Water is vital for our body and brain to function. A general rule of thumb is 8 glasses of water a day or 2 litres to stay hydrated. Researchers have found that dehydration could lead to poor concentration, anxiety, and other mental and physical disorders.

Limit your alcohol consumption and avoid binge drinking.

Binge drinking, or excessive consumption of alcohol, has severe consequences on the mental health. Alcohol interferes with our brain’s communication pathways and it affects the way it looks and works. These disruptions change our mood and behaviour and make it harder for us to think clearly and move with coordination.

Hit the gym or enjoy some outdoor activities on a regular basis.

No one can ignore the vital benefits of exercise on our mental health and wellbeing. Thanks to the endorphins and serotonin released by our brain from exercising. These two are known as the happy hormones. Regular exercise acts as a great healer for depression, stress relief, alleviating anxiety, mood and brainpower booster, increasing self-confidence, improving memory, and help with relaxation and sleeping patterns.

Whew! It doesn’t sound bad, isn’t it? Taking care of your mental health is also taking care of yourself. What we eat and what we do affects us and this is why you see your friends signing up for gym memberships and starting to eat healthy and organic. We are aware of the sad truth behind New Zealand’s mental health situation and we can lessen this number by starting to do some actions right now. Eat healthily! Take care of yourself! Start now!