Prioritizing mental health is important, and there are a number of strategies that can improve psychological functioning. For example, getting regular exercise, following a healthy diet, and using healthy coping skills can promote mental health and reduce the risk of problems like depression and anxiety. On the other hand, unhealthy habits can have a negative effect on mental health functioning. As it turns out, those fries that you splurge on at your favorite fast food restaurant might be taking a toll on your mental health.
The Link Between Fries and Mental Health
Most people have probably heard that proper nutrition is important for mental health, but you may not realize just how damaging poor nutrition can be. A poor quality diet in general can take its toll, but there are specific foods that have been linked to poor mental health. One recent study found that consuming fried foods, and especially fried potatoes, was linked to a higher risk of both depression and anxiety.
Study results showed that those who frequently consumed fried potatoes were 7% more likely to have depression, and 12% more likely to experience anxiety. The risk was higher for men and for younger people. Study authors speculated that fried food consumption is linked to mental health problems because of an increase in inflammation in the brain.
What the Study Results Mean
So, do the results of this study suggest that you should never indulge in fries? Not exactly. Keep in mind that results found that frequent consumption of fried potatoes increased the risk of depression and anxiety. This indicates that it’s not the occasional serving of fries that harms mental health. Rather, a diet that regularly includes fried foods can lead to increased brain inflammation and worsened mental health.
If you live with a mental health condition, or you have a personal or family history of depression or anxiety, making tweaks to your diet can reduce your risk of mental health problems. Avoiding fried foods can help you maintain optimal mental health functioning, and if your diet is high in this type of food, you may notice an improvement in depression or anxiety symptoms if you cut back.
Keep in mind that french fries alone are probably not to blame for poor mental health. A nutritious diet is just one component of maintaining psychological wellness, and your overall nutrition is more important than whether you occasionally enjoy a serving of fries. To promote mental health, it’s important to eat a balanced diet consisting of nutrient rich foods. More specifically, a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and fish, while being low in sugar, soda, and processed foods, can reduce the risk of mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Improve Mental Health
If you have depression or another mental health condition, engaging in professional treatment, including counseling or medication management, is important for recovery. While professional intervention is often warranted, healthy lifestyle changes can also make a difference. In fact, if you aren’t seeing adequate improvement with treatment, healthy lifestyle choices could be the missing link.
Maintaining a nutritious diet is one piece of the puzzle, but the following lifestyle changes can also help you to manage depression and anxiety:
- Get regular exercise: Making exercise a part of your regular routine can improve your mental health functioning and reduce symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
- Prioritize sleep: A healthy sleep schedule is also critical for mental health. Making a point to get 7-8 hours of restorative sleep per night can help you to regulate your emotions, manage stress, and think more clearly.
- Develop a support system: Staying connected to supportive friends and family members can also boost your mood. It’s important to establish a support system consisting of people who are willing to listen and offer encouragement when you’re struggling.
Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle can be just as important as seeking professional treatment. In fact, lifestyle factors are so important for mental health that the field of lifestyle medicine focuses directly on modifying lifestyle behaviors to prevent and manage chronic disease.
The bottom line is that if you’re struggling with your mental health, and it seems like nothing you do leads to an improvement, it may be time to take a look at your diet, exercise habits, and overall lifestyle. Maybe you realize that you are indulging in too many french fries and other inflammatory foods. In this case, some diet changes and a healthier lifestyle may be enough to lead to the improvements you’re seeking.
Where to Turn When You Need Something More
For those living with depression, professional treatment, including counseling and/or medication, is often effective, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. However, some people may find that their depression is treatment-resistant, meaning that it doesn’t improve with usual treatment methods.
If you haven’t experienced adequate symptom relief with depression treatment, you may benefit from trying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This non-invasive treatment modality uses a device placed against the forehead to stimulate areas of the brain involved in mood regulation. You may be a candidate for TMS if you have tried two or more medications for depression, and you haven’t experienced relief.
Pulse TMS provides services in the Southern California area, conveniently located in West Los Angeles. Contact us today to learn more about TMS or to determine if you’re a candidate for treatment.