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The Mood and Food Connection

Burgers and fries; the mood and food connection.

Our diets arguably have the biggest impact on both our mental and physical health. Consuming enough nutrients each day is necessary for nearly every function in the body, and a deficiency can cause a wide range of issues. This is why a poor diet is associated with a higher incidence of emotional disorders like depression and anxiety, as well as physical problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Junk food, as in processed foods low in nutrients, can worsen and can sometimes even trigger emotional disorders. Let’s look at how junk food affects our bodies, and examine the mood and food connection.

What is Junk Food?

Junk food is a general term that usually refers to processed foods like those found in fast food and frozen dinners that contain artificial preservatives, flavorings, colors, or sweeteners, etc. Different food additives have certain uses in the food industry, and many of them have each been linked to different health issues. Describing each additive and its effects would be difficult as there are a few thousand of them used in the United States. However, if you see an ingredient repeatedly and are curious, a simple search online about the substance and its safety will usually provide some good information, just be cautious of the sources you read from online.

What’s Wrong with It?

The two main problems with processed foods is that they are typically lacking in essential nutrients, and they can cause inflammation throughout the body. So, if a person eats a diet high in processed foods and low in whole, nutrient-dense foods, they may develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can cause many different health issues. If a deficiency is severe, it can lead to debilitating symptoms and sometimes permanent damage. For example, vitamin A deficiency is the world’s leading cause of blindness, so vitamin and mineral deficiencies should be taken seriously.

The other problem with processed foods is the inflammation they can cause. Although these foods are often devoid of essential nutrients, they are still usually high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats. These unhealthy fats like trans fats and heavily processed oils like vegetable oil, canola, oil, etc. can trigger inflammation in the body, especially in the arteries. The high amounts of sugar can increase inflammation throughout the body, and contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes. Not to mention the other ingredients these foods may have like preservatives and flavorings that can each have their own negative health effects. Generally, you should avoid consuming foods that contain unnatural or heavily processed ingredients.

How it Affects Mood

There are many ways your diet affects your emotional state, but one of the biggest reasons is the lack of nutrients. When consuming foods that are low in nutrients, it can be easy to develop deficiencies. Many of these deficiencies have been linked to changes in mood, and this is mostly because your body needs the right amounts of vitamins and minerals to make neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Without the necessary ingredients, your body may not be able to produce the right amounts of these neurotransmitters which can lead to depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and mood swings. Low serotonin can also cause sugar cravings because sugar can give a pleasurable feeling that a brain low on serotonin may be craving. This is why people that are depressed often crave foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. These foods often displace nutrient-dense foods in a person’s diet, which can lead to more nutrient deficiencies which can further impair neurotransmitter production, leading to a vicious cycle.

There are many reasons why it’s important to eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and quality meats. Getting enough nutrients each day can help improve both your mental and physical health, and can also reduce your risk of developing many different health conditions. So, remember to consume natural, nutrient-dense foods, and do your best to avoid heavily processed foods.

You can listen to our Depression Loves Junk Food podcast episode here. You can also listen to it on our YouTube channel here.

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