There are times when we are low, sad or even depressed and this emotional breakdown may lead to emotional eating, wherein, you tend to eat more than the required calories you would need in a day. In a fast paced life, people tend to feel isolated and that’s when they find solace in nothing but food and majorly unhealthy junk food. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers have found a connection between eating chocolate and being depressed. It is said that chocolates do contain ingredients, which are known to elevate mood. Similarly, there are other foods that are known to boost moods. But what is it that triggers the brain to reach out to junk and high-fat foods despite knowing the fact that they may harm you in the long run. According to Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta, “People eat lot of food to comfort themselves and divert their attention from the current situation. They turn to mostly sugary and high-fat foods to feel relieved. Hormones also play a vital role in shifting moods and eating.”
How does diet affect your mood?
Diet does make an important component of mental health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, a dietary pattern characterised by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intake of animal foods has been associated with a decreased risk of depression. On the other hand, a dietary pattern characterised by a high consumption of red meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, et al has been associated with an increased risk of depression.
What does science say?
Eating too many sugary foods or high-fat foods can be super addictive; according to a study published in the Nature Neuroscience, eating such foods can trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. So, the more such foods you eat, brain starts getting addicted to them, making you crave for more. It becomes a cycle and a trap for your brain. When you are sad, you tend to start eating more of these junk foods and make yourself feel better.
You tend to use food to self-medicate, which may help improve or avoid negative or uncomfortable feelings. This makes you overeat and gain weight. Another reason to reach out to these foods is that they also increase the levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that elevates moods. This helps you feel calmer and relaxed.
So if you are sad or low, make sure that you don’t pick up convenient options for yourself knowing they can harm you in many ways. Make sure someone is accompanying you; someone who can divert your mind from eating too much. In case of excessive emotional eating, do not shy away from visiting a psychiatrist or concerned expert.