Written by Tamara Farhat, reviewed by Emily Campbell RD CDE MScFN
You might know that nutrition has an immense effect on our physical health, but did you also know that the food we eat can impact our mental well-being as well?
The brain, which controls our thoughts and emotions, needs fuel to function properly. This fuel comes in the form of nutrients found in our diet and the food we consume. If the brain doesn’t receive the proper nutrients, the result can be an unwanted change in our mood and sleep pattern. An inadequate diet can also make us feel lethargic and slow our decision-making abilities.
Processed Food and Mood Disorders
In a world where processed foods are more convenient and sometimes more accessible than fresh ingredients, our society has become reliant on this type of food. Processed foods may lead to inflammation in the body and the brain, which may cause mood disorders, including anxiety and depression1. Because these foods typically contain high amounts of carbohydrates in the form of refined sugars and white flour, which stimulate the dopamine part of the brain, they can become highly addictive. The more we consume them, the more the brain craves them instead of craving nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, which are essential for our physical and mental well-being. Processed foods are also high in phosphorus additives, which as kidney patients, you should avoid. Learn more about phosphorus bioavailability in this blog post.
The Positive Impact of a Healthy Diet
Studies2 have shown that the Mediterranean diet has a 25% to 35% lower depression risk than a traditional “Western” diet which includes an overload of processed foods and refined sugars. The researchers attribute this result to the high amounts of vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish and seafood in this diet and alongside low amounts of lean meats. The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to prevent kidney disease and slow its progression in kidney patients. Learn more about the impacts of different dietary patterns on kidney disease in this blog post.
Our Physical Health Impacts Our Mental Health
If we are unwell physically, that can negatively affect our mental well-being. As kidney patients, a healthy kidney-friendly diet is important to prolong your kidney function and slow the progression of kidney disease. It’s important to discuss with your dietitian your specific dietary needs and create a diet that works for you. If you don’t have a dietitian on your health care team yet, we encourage you to read our blog post about the role of a dietitian in CKD and how to find one.
1 Eating Well For Mental Health: https://www.sutterhealth.org/health/nutrition/eating-well-for-mental-health
2 Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626