4 Eating Habits That Harm Mental Health

What we eat doesn’t just affect our weight, hunger levels or energy. Current science suggests that choices you make in your diet can have broad implications for your overall physical health and mental health. For example, a 2022 study found a link between ultra-processed foods and depression, and a 2020 study in the European Journal of Human Genetics reported an association between poor nutrition and mental health disorders in young people. Food, and our behavior around it, can affect everything from mood to self-esteem… so protect your mental well-being by avoiding these four harmful eating habits, as outlined by a registered dietitian who specializes in the link between nutrition and psychology .

Do you want to take care of your mind? Also, don’t miss 5 eating habits that benefit your mental health, says registered dietitian

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“While the brain prefers glucose as a fuel source, a number of studies show that a high-sugar diet is linked to low mood and depression,” says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, LD, owner of NutriComm and creator of the eating habits Laboratory. “Consumption of sugar increases inflammation in the body, which can also be a factor in the mental response to a sugary diet. It can be quite easy to pinpoint sugary foods in the diet, but it is also important to consider what you drink.

Sugar-sweetened drinks such as soda have been linked to numerous health problems, including an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver. It even messes with your neurological health: According to a study in the frontiers of psychiatry, regular drinking of sugary drinks has been linked to increased psychological and behavioral problems in adolescents and has led to negative mental health outcomes for adults.

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Sugar is an important part of what many nutrition professionals call the Standard American Diet (SAD). The acronym for this diet is unfortunately on-point: Following the SAD also means consuming large amounts of saturated fat and refined or processed foods. Research has shown that consumption of these may increase the risk of depression symptoms, according to the journal PLUS ONE.

However, there’s no denying that these foods come with ease. Sometimes a quick drive-thru ride is necessary when you’re hungry and trying to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. But you can still try to keep your meals easy without overdoing it with saturated fat and refined foods, like choosing these 10 healthy fast food options the next time you order.

Counting calories has been a traditional way to try to lose weight and get healthy, but Broihier points out that hyper-fixing on the numbers can negatively impact your mental health over time. “Tracking can be a useful tool, especially if you’re just developing a new habit or starting to eliminate an unusable one,” she says, although she adds: “[…B]But if you do it for the long term, that habit can turn into an obsession that will eventually define your life.’

Broihier typically encourages new customers to start tracking, eventually inviting them to forgo the tool in order to reach a healthier boundary and overall healthier habits.

So instead of counting, she says, many experts recommend recording a balance of healthy food in your diet. Then pay attention to how you feel as you get more of these.

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Research shows how inflammation in the body can increase the risk of depression, and scientists are proposing ways to reduce it. Your diet can play an important role in increasing inflammation, so regularly consuming anti-inflammatory foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and fish, may help reduce the risk of depression, compared to a diet high in added sugars, soda, and junk food. according to the International journal of environmental research and public health.

Try incorporating these 18 anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to get the most of their health benefits while keeping your mental health in a good spot.

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