Our brain is constantly working 24/7 which is why it is important to have the constant nutritional fuel to work at its best. This simple assumption is just one of the reasons why psychologist became interested in the relationship between the two. This type of thinking is what started the important study of nutritional psychology in the 1970s in the United States. To understand more in depth, Nutritional Psychology can simply be defined as the psychological study of how various nutrients one consumes can influence an individuals mood and behavior. As time proceeded, many psychologists started to see that they were showing strong constant evidence in their studies and realized that these studies should not go unpublished. In the mid-200s to now, numerous studies have shown that nutritional changes to ones eating habits have given positive results in improving mental health disorders like Depression, Anxiety, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Depression has become one of the most diagnosed mental disorders in America and seems to be increasing over time. According to Harvards health blog, Just in one week, I have seen three patients with depression requiring treatment (Dr. Monique). Speaking of treatments there are multiple options for this which includes medications, therapy, and most important self-care. Self-care can easily include sleep, physical activity, and, the one I am going to talk about it, diet. The reason I have pointing out the diet portion is because most individuals tend to overlook this factor which could be a huge factor with the outcome. After researching on the topic, many Psychologist feel that the diagnosis of depression has increased because of the availability and the consumption of fast food. According to a clinical study, A higher risk of depression was associated with the consumption of fast food (Cambridge). This is why multiple clinical psychologist have been conducting trials with cutting out processed foods or any commercial baked goods in that matter. After researching on processed food and mental health, multiple studies expressed that positive results in decreasing depression with the Mediterranean-style diet. The Mediterranean diet is simply defined as a planned diet that makes you eat primarily plant-based foods and makes you cut out anything processed. According to a research published, The individuals who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 34.4 % lower risk of being diagnosed with depression compared to people who were least likely to follow these eating habits (nature). This result is just one of many that has strong evidence that has proven this hypothesis on individuals actual eating healthy food instead of processed food.
Anxiety is simply defined as a feeling of being worried, nervous, or uneased about an event or something with an uncertain outcome. Multiple studies have shown that sugar intake could increase anxiety symptoms. For example, US processed food labels make it look to the untrained eye that there might not be that much sugar in the foods they are selling but this is not true. US food labels break up the sugars into different categories making it look acceptable. According to an article, The popular store-bought tomato basil sauce contains 12 grams of sugar, which is 3 teaspoons in one half-cup serving (Dr.Naidoo). That is only a half-cup serving and already reaches the amount of what an individual actually needs. Each individual needs a healthy balance of sugar, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to function properly. With that being said, the assumption of omega-3 fatty acids have shown positive results in reducing anxiety symptoms. Healthy Omega-3 are found in foods like wild caught seafoods or if your vegetarian you can get a lot of it from plant-based foods. As stated in a randomized controlled trial, Students who received n-3 showed a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms (ScienceDirect). This study explained that they also used the Mediterranean-style diet to show these positive results. With multiple of these studies showing related positive results with these planned diets definitely shows that eating more plants and vegetables daily and not processed foods could overall show positive results in various areas including mental health.
A healthy diet can also play an important role with people diagnosed with ADHD. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is another one of the most common mental disorders. ADHD can be defined as a chronic condition that shows repetitive symptoms of continuous inattention, hyperactivity, and sometimes impulsivity. One major myth that people assume with individuals diagnosed with ADHD is since the disorder is associated with being hyperactive they assume that they are active and skinny but it is just the opposite. According to a lecture video on ADHD and eating right, ADHD actually has a higher rate of obesity in the ADHD population (Olivardia). The reason for this is because individuals with ADHD have the inability to shut off their internal body cues to signal that they are full so their thinking process is more like if the food is on my plate, I need to eat it all. One of the Most commonly used diets to help people diagnosed with ADHD is the Mediterranean diet. According to another lecture video on 5 ways nutrition can impact ADHD, A study published by pediatrics in 2017 that involved 120 children- 60 healthy and 60 with ADHD- in the ADHD group they had a lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet, lower consumption of fruit/vegetable/pasta/and rice, a higher frequency of skipping breakfast, and a lower consumption of fatty fish (Stevens). These result outcomes are because the individuals diagnosed with this disorder are less capable with meal preparation and timing than others which gravitates them to choosing processed or fast foods that have higher components of unwanted fats/sugars. That also supports the fact why most psychologist tell people with ADHD to cut out red dye #40, which is commonly found in candy, soda, snack foods, since it as shown evidence in making them more hyperactive. Artificial food colors and flavors have tremendously increased over the past 60 years. According to the same lecture article, In 1950 the production of food dyes in the United States per person per day was 12 grams consumed in their diet in comparison to 2010 where it has increased to the consumption of 60 grams per person per day (Stevens). This result is due with how Red Dye #40 can dramatically impact brain functions showing overall increased activity.