Since the importance of mental health is so vast, I just wanted to spent a bit more time on all sides of this area.
The past 2 weeks I have given some small tidbits of info of how foods can impact our brains ability to function and the area of mental health. A blog does not do justice for how much information and importance this area deserves, but giving some reference to why whole foods can be critical is pretty straight forward.
To add to that, for this week, I also wanted to explain how sugars as well as artificial food chemicals, even ones approved by the FDA, are actually very damaging to brain function and are directly affecting our mood and mental health.
This is maybe even more important to understand as avoiding these foods can be an instant change in how you feel and function.
First, regular processed sugar, seems harmless enough and it is really in most everything packaged. Trying to calculate how much sugar one eats can be eye opening. If you have ever tried to track, you can see that sugar is added to almost everything. Bacon and other processed meats, salad dressings, yogurt, BBQ sauce, ketchup, granloa, canned soups and beans, and the obvious cookies, cake, ice cream, candy and sugary drinks.
Harvard has done studies on your brain on sugar. Low premium “fuel” such as processed and sugar rich foods as listed above, absolutely impairs brain function as well as worsens symptoms of mood disorders such as depression.
This is due to the free radicals and inflammation that processed sugar foods create. There is also the effects of our gut / brain connection where 95% of our feel good neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in our gut.
Understanding the fact that our digestion is a huge factor in how we feel mentally. While bad bacteria are always in our bodies, they are often under control when we have enough good bacteria. What determines which ones are in control? What you eat makes a difference. Eating sugar causes the bad bacteria to over take the good bacteria, where the good bacteria thrive on fibre. So, what you eat affects if you have good or bad bacteria thriving in your body and that affects your mood.
Now, the easier part of this can be to avoid the artificial stuff. These are chemicals that are known to have an effect on brain and mental health. Chemicals such as aspartame, colours, preservatives and other easy to see chemicals with crazy names listed in your foods.
Just aspartame alone has enough evidence against it that is it illogical that it can still be used in “food” and allowed to be consumed. You can search and find studies, such as the National Institute of Health wrote up a conclusion that states:
Aspartame intake affected certain aspects of neurobehavioral performance. Spatial orientation was weaker and irritability and depression were more frequent after high-aspartame consumption than low aspartame consumption when subjects served as their own controls. Furthermore, seven participants experienced clinically significant neurobehavioral conditions following the higher level of aspartame consumption.
Also it is important to know how aspartame affects our brains:
Aspartame also compromises the blood–brain barrier, increasing its permeability and altering concentrations of catecholamines, such as dopamine, in the brain. Thus, aspartame ingestion may have a role in the pathogenesis of certain mental disorders (Humphries et al., 2008).
There is much to read and understand in this area, but just being aware that reading labels to know what is in your food can be a key to improving how you feel. Less processed foods and more foods that are as close to the source of how it grows is your best option to limit unknown side effects.
A whole other area involved in brain and mental health are the types of fats we consume, and I will get into that next week.
Have a great week,