We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Mental health disorders are increasing at an alarming rate and therapies and medications cost $US2.5 ($3.52 AUD)trillion dollars a year globally.
There is now evidence dietary changes can decrease the development of mental health issues and alleviate this growing burden. Australia’s clinical guidelines recommend addressing diet when treating depression.
Recently there have been major advances addressing the influence certain foods have on psychological well-being. Increasing these nutrients could not only increase personal well-being but could also decrease the cost of mental health issues all around the world.
1. Complex carbohydrates
One way to increase psychological well-being is by fuelling brain cells correctly through the carbohydrates in our food. Complex carbohydrates are sugars made up of large molecules contained within fibre and starch. They are found in fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains and are beneficial for brain health as they release glucose slowly into our system. This helps stabilise our mood.
Simple carbohydrates found in sugary snacks and drinks create sugar highs and lows that rapidly increase and decrease feelings of happiness and produce a negative effect on our psychological well-being.
We often use these types of sugary foods to comfort us when we’re feeling down. But this can create an addiction-like response in the brain, similar to illicit drugs that increase mood for the short term but have negative long-term effects.