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What you eat helps or hinders?

What you eat helps or hinders?

Mental health and food

Photo: Unsplash/Personary

The intrinsic and emotional connection we enjoy with food is indisputable. After all, who has never gorged on a pot of ice cream or something they really love when they’re sad, anxious, or stressed? Our emotions influence our food choices in some circumstances. But what about the opposite? Can what you eat affect your mental health? In this article, we will tell you about the relationship between mental health and food.

The relationship between mental health and diet

Mental disorders, according to the World Health Organization, are characterized by abnormalities in brain activity that can affect mood, behaviour, thinking, emotions, learning, and the way an individual communicates with others.

You are Mental disorders affect 12% of the Brazilian population It is more common in women. Among the most common are depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, schizophrenia, and other psychoses.

it is known that Diets high in calories and poor in foods based on ultra-processed products and fast food are associated with depression. A low intake of foods with high nutritional value, such as vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits and oilseeds, leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

In addition, foods of animal origin, such as eggs, meat, dairy products, and fish, when consumed in insufficient quantities, can lead to low levels of zinc, vitamin B6, B12 and essential amino acids in the body.

Deficiency of certain nutrients such as omega-3, amino acids, minerals and vitamins from the B-complex, such as folic acid (B9) and vitamin B12, is associated with a depressed state of mind and cognitive decline.

Bad diet leads to mental disorders

Inadequate food, with high consumption of processed foods and lack of natural foods, as well as excessive use of antibiotics and laxatives, cause A disorder in the function of the intestines of the individual.

All this leads to an image called Dysbacteriosiswhich can be understood as a defect in the quality of the intestinal flora (intestinal flora).

The consequences are many, including Intestinal disorder Which in turn is associated with the presence of psychological disorders. These are associated with a reduction in serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the body, also caused by a deficiency or deficiency of nutrients.

We have a process It directly affects the optimal functioning of the nervous system. Depression is characterized, for example, by a decrease in the brain’s vital amines (neurotransmitters), among which are mainly serotonin.

When it is in low quantities, it is responsible for the state of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder. On the other hand, noradrenaline is associated with a loss of energy, disposition, and interest in life. Dopamine reduces attention, focus, and motivation.


Depression is characterized by a weakened physical and mental state of the individual, in which states develop persistent sadness, lack of energy, irritability, impatience, insomnia or excessive sleep, changes in appetite, anxiety, and low self-esteem. See foods for better sleep here.

It is caused by several factors such as biological (genetic), diet, physical appearance, social interaction and lifestyle. The World Health Organization ranks depression as the fourth most morbid disease in the world.

With regard to this situation, we cannot ignore the information that depression is accompanied by several inflammatory responses. Patients have elevated peripheral blood leukocytosis, which increases the plasma concentration of inflammatory proteins in the acute stage.

The result is a decrease in the immune response, and a decrease in the number of lymphocytes (defensive cells). Therefore, in addition to increasing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and their receptors, the immune system of a depressed patient is weakened!


On the other hand, anxiety manifests symptoms accompanied by physiological reactions, such as tachycardia, sweating, dizziness, lack of memory and attention, irritability, hopelessness, excessive anxiety, social withdrawal, and decreased academic or occupational performance.

Poor hydration, frequent consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and smoking may precipitate and trigger anxiety symptoms. Here are 7 foods that can increase anxiety.

How to improve mental health with food

To improve anxiety symptoms, we found essential fatty acids like Omega 3 which, in equilibrium with Omega 6 and Omega 9are precursors of eicosanoids, that is, lipid-soluble mediators of inflammation.

especially the Polyunsaturated fatty acidssuch as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are derived from omega-3s, have nutritional, structural and regulatory functions, with a significant impact on the body’s physiological functions.

Low levels of these nutrients are associated with depression and anxiety and increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by exposure to stressful situations. Here are 5 foods to relieve anxiety.

Therefore, we can find answers in foods and nutrients that contribute to symptom relief and prevention and reversal of mental health-related illnesses.

Nutritional therapy should be included as an integral part of the treatment of such diseases. Therefore, it is recommended to join Mediterranean dietwhich brings essential nutrients to the brain, such as minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids.

These elements are important because they produce antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective effects, helping to better fight the negative consequences of oxidative stress. This reduces the risk of depression and anxiety by up to 30%.

What to eat to improve mental health

Many nutrients act by reducing the processes of neurodegeneration, that is, the death of cells in the nervous system, as they provide protection against oxidation, which is able to stimulate the survival of neurons.

  • You are fatty acids, for example, work on the development and integrity of neurons and protect cell membranes due to its action as an antioxidant. Thus, they reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, for example.
  • You are Flavonoids Essential in the memory process in the brain, as it provides protection for neurons from interactions between large molecules.
  • vitamins and minerals They serve to maintain and control brain function, through antioxidants and as cofactors for certain enzymes. They also work by inhibiting free radicals, which makes it possible to maintain the integrity of the cells of the central nervous system.

Essential nutrients for your mental health

Here are some essential nutrients for a healthy nervous system:

  • magnesium: Necessary to bind to serotonin receptors. Therefore, its antidepressant effect is based on its interaction with serotonergic, norepinephrine and dopamine receptors;
  • Zinc: Active in the immune system, its supplement is associated with reducing levels of inflammatory markers in the body;
  • Tryptophan: The direct precursor of the amino acid serotonin associated with improved control of social behavior in individuals with disorders associated with serotonergic dysfunction;
  • Omega 3 and 6: It is important for the formation of the cell membrane and is also present in the brain and retina, acting on the nerve membrane at the sites of synapses, as well as in the cerebral cortex. In addition, they act in the regulation of inflammatory processes,
  • B complex vitamins: Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B9 (folic acid) and Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) which are involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system and are associated with improved cognitive decline;
  • Vitamin D: It is produced in the skin, mainly through exposure to sunlight; In its active form, which is already metabolized by the liver and converted in the kidneys, called calcitriol, it is able to stimulate the expression of the genes of the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase, which is of great importance in the production of noradrenaline.

These data show that food can be considered as a determining factor in mental health and thus constitutes one of the pillars for achieving a healthy and balanced state for all individuals.

Mental health foods

  • Cold water fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines)
  • Sun flower oil
  • banana
  • chickpeas
  • honey
  • beetroot
  • avocado
  • almonds
  • nuts
  • cashew nut
  • Bean
  • Animal proteins (beef, pork, fish, poultry, eggs)
  • Vegetables in general (fruits and vegetables)


the post Mental health and diet: Does what you eat help or hurt? first appeared embodiment.

Karina Muller ([email protected])

– Dietitian, developing nutritional awareness and re-education work, combining knowledge of functional nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine and gastronomic techniques. He gives online courses and lectures and offers services in SP and RJ

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