What we eat can have a huge effect on us not only in a physical sense but in many other ways too. Many people experience poor health when their diet is poor, as they are not always getting the relevant nutrients to help them support their physical wellbeing. But what about our mental health?

The effects of poor mental health can be felt not only by those who suffer, but their loved ones, friends, and co-workers of the sufferers. We are fortunate to be in a society which is taking more and more notice to the needs of those who have a daily struggle with their mental health.

One study undertaken on some children and young people, found that those who ate a poor diet high in saturated fat, refined sugar and processed food were more prone to feelings of anxiety and depression. Other factors linked with poor diet can also become contributary to depressive feelings. For example, someone who is overweight due to a poor diet is more likely to suffer with a lack of self-esteem which in turn, can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression.

In fact, many studies have shown links between obesity and depression. People suffering with depression have a 58% increased risk of becoming obese.

A family’s socioeconomic status can be another factor as to whether they can afford to buy nutritious food, leaving themselves open to obesity, vitamin deficiencies, depression and poor physical health.  

A reduction in depression was found in a group, in a recent study, who ate a Mediterranean style diet supplemented with fish oil. A Mediterranean style diet is high in unsaturated fats like olive oil, fruits, vegetable, nuts, legumes, cereals, beans, grains and fish.

Blood sugar levels play a big part in mental wellbeing as a drop in blood sugars can make you feel irritable and sluggish. Eating foods with a slow release of energy like pasta, grains, nuts, seeds, cereals can really help avoid the inevitable slump when not eating the right foods. Refined sugar can cause a fast increase in blood sugar which can feel like it’s giving you a boost but the lasting power of this is much less and not ideal in the long run, as the fall in blood sugar is as quick as the rise.

Caffeine is a staple in many an adult’s diet, but it has been known vastly to contribute to an increase in anxiety and panic attacks. Caffeine raises the heart rate, causing some to feel jittery and more prone to feelings of anxiousness. Avoiding caffeine-based food and drink has had a high success rate in adults suffering with anxiety, so a switch to a decaffeinated version could be beneficial in the long term.

If you are taking medication for a mental health issue, some foods can be particularly dangerous to eat and can be detrimental to their effectiveness. Tyramine is a substance which can dangerously react to MAOI (an anti-depressant) and can be found in foods containing caffeine and foods which have been matured, fermented, pickled, smoked cured, hung or dried.

Lithium is extremely sensitive to the salt level within in the body and it can become dangerous if your lithium levels become too high. Grapefruit is not recommended when taking many anti-anxiety medications as it can prevent the enzymes from breaking down the medication, causing the body not to absorb enough of the drug. That said, it is always worth consulting your health professional when taking any of these and the effects your diet can have on them.