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Diet can influence mood, behavior and more – a neuroscientist explains

Diet can influence mood, behavior and more – a neuroscientist explains

A balanced diet is essential for overall health, but emerging research is beginning to uncover just how important diet can be for brain health.

A growing body of evidence suggests that what we eat can influence our mood, behavior and even our cognitive function.

“The brain is a really metabolically active organ. It uses a lot of energy and it’s very sensitive to changes in energy availability,” said Felice Jacka, a professor of nutritional psychiatry at the University of Melbourne.

For example, a lack of nutrients can lead to feelings of fatigue and brain fog, while a diet high in sugar can lead to irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.

“We know that diet is linked to mood,” said Jacka. “We also know now that diet is linked to brain function and brain structure.”

Recent studies have linked poor diet to an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline, while a growing body of evidence suggests that a healthy diet can help protect the brain from damage and improve cognitive function.

“There’s compelling evidence now that diet is as important to brain health as it is to physical health,” said Jacka.

So, what should we be eating for a healthy brain?

“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question,” said Jacka. “But there are some general principles that we know are important.”

Firstly, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and to limit processed foods, sugary drinks and red meat.

“We know that a diet that’s high in fresh plant foods, and low in processed foods, is good for physical health and mental health,” said Jacka.

Secondly, there’s emerging evidence that certain nutrients are especially important for brain health.

“Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are critical for brain function,” said Jacka. “They’re involved in inflammation and they’re involved in brain cell membranes.”

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as in flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

“There’s also evidence that other nutrients, like vitamin D and magnesium, are important for brain health,” said Jacka.

Vitamin D is found in oily fish, eggs and fortified foods, while magnesium is found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds.

“Making sure you get enough of these nutrients is important for brain health,” said Jacka.

Finally, it’s important to remember that diet is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to brain health.

“Exercise, sleep, stress management, social connection, these are all important factors,” said Jacka. “But diet is a really important piece of the puzzle.”

It’s well known that what we eat can have an effect on our physical health. But new research is beginning to reveal that diet can also have a profound impact on our mental health and well-being.

In a new article, Dr. Julia Rucklidge, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and colleagues review the evidence linking diet and mental health.

They start by looking at the connection between diet and mood. Numerous studies have now shown that there is a relationship between what we eat and how we feel.

For example, a large observational study of over 3,000 people found that those who ate a diet high in processed foods and sugary drinks were more likely to report symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, compared to those who ate a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish.

Other studies have also shown that poor diet is a risk factor for developing depression, and that certain nutrients can help to alleviate symptoms of depression.

The authors also discuss the link between diet and behavior, specifically looking at attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Again, observational studies have found that children with ADHD are more likely to have a poor diet, and that certain nutrients can help to improve symptoms. For example, one small study found that children with ADHD who took omega-3 supplements showed improvements in reading, spelling, and behavior.

The authors also review the evidence linking diet and other mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Overall, the evidence suggests that diet is a risk factor for mental health problems, and that certain nutrients can play a role in the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

While more research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms involved, the evidence is clear that what we eat can have a profound effect on our mental health.

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