It is so tasty and convenient, but also so bad for your health, that quick snack in the fast food restaurant. You will get a lot of the wrong kinds of fats and the producers also throw a lot of salt into the bargain. This doesn’t only make you gain weight easily, but also threatens your health in other ways, especially your mental health.
Our food intake affects the formation and activity of neurotransmitters, the chemical substances that neurones use to communicate with each other. Poor diet can lead to changes in mood, confusion, memory loss, depression, and mental disorders.
Researchers in Spain discovered your risk of depression increases by almost fifty percent if you eat a lot of fast food, like french fries, hamburgers, and pizza’s. The same goes true for all kinds of factory-made baked goods like donuts and cake.
The problem is caused by trans fats, according to the researchers. These trans fats are artificial fats. They are uncommon in nature and are produced from vegetable fats. Trans fats are being used in margarine, snack food, and packaged baked goods. They are added to make the products tastier and less perishable. They can also come into being while frying in vegetable oils, like they do in fast food restaurants.
Apart from making you more prone to depression, trans fats also appear to have a negative influence on memory. Besides, it had already been proven indisputably that trans fats raise cholesterol levels in your blood and thus increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a US federal agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of among other things food safety, recently has recognised that trans fats are dangerous to our health. They finally take action, after research results showing the bad influence of trans fats had been published for many, many years. Foodstuff producers now have three years to stop using them.
Chemicals in fast food may also make you anxious, apathetic, and moody. Fortunately, other nutrients exist that have a contrary effect. They will make you more energetic and have a positive influence on your mood. The use of extra virgin olive oil for instance turns out to lower your chance of depression.
The mineral magnesium also plays a part in counteracting depression. Magnesium can be found in, among other products, chard, spinach, soybeans, and halibut.
That antioxidant lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes, has a similar effect. Regularly eating a handful of cherry tomatoes definitely has a good influence.
An important chemical that will positively affect your mood, is tryptophan. The body uses this substance to produce the neurotransmitter serotonine. The amount of serotonine present in the brain is involved in depression, insomnia, irritability, feelings of calmness and serenity.
Examples of products that contain tryptophan, are asparagus, turkey, eggs, avocados, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. And eating a banana from time to time contributes to improvement of your mood in the same way.
Of course the product that enjoys the greatest fame with regard to mood improvement, is chocolate. The active ingredient that is responsible, is the substance theobromine in cacao. This compound can be safely consumed by humans, but may be deadly to dogs and cats. So you can take a piece of chocolate when you are feeling down, but it is better to take your depressed dog out for a long walk.
Flavour is a determining factor in human eating behaviour. Good-tasting food motivates eating. And because it tastes so good we often eat just a little more than would be good for us. Due to our preferences for sugary and fatty foods, a healthy diet is sometimes very difficult to achieve. Sweets often function as mood stabilisers. It is good not to skip them completely from your diet as a sweet every now and then helps to reinforce the correct nutrient intake.
Eat less, live long and happy?
Weight is an important aspect of health. Overweight and obesity increase the likelihood of various diseases. Recently, calorie restriction has been at the center of research attention. It may play a role in improving health and extending life.
In a wide range of animals, calorie restriction has been shown to slow the ageing process and increase lifespan. Fish, rodents, and dogs turn out to live longer on a low calorie diet. To make this happen, the animals are put on a diet containing 30 to 40 percent less calories than normal. And they have to start this type of diet at a very young age.
The effect of calorie restriction in humans is controversial. Research is ongoing into the effects of calorie restriction in nonhuman primates. Persons who submit themselves voluntarily to calorie restriction, are also being studied.
Calorie restriction produces mild stress. This makes brain cells more active and triggers the production of protective substances. Research in the US showed, elderly people who eat more than 2100 calories per day run a bigger risk of dementia. The more they eat, the higher the risk. Since the normal amount for adults is about 2000 calories, elderly who eat more, just eat too much. It’s only logical this is bad for their brain health.
Although some benefits of calorie restriction have been demonstrated, side effects such as loss of muscle mass and bone also are extensive, apart from the possible lack of essential nutrients. Calorie restriction lowers testosterone levels, which results in reduced libido. It also slows metabolism, which changes thermal regulation. The core body temperature drops and you feel cold more quickly.
Low body weight in middle-aged people and elderly is associated with premature mortality risk from cardiovascular disease and cancers. Underweight in people over 65 generates a higher dementia risk than normal weight or overweight. Over thirteen thousands residents of a retirement community in the US took part in a study about weight and mortality. Those who were overweight had the lowest mortality rates.
So, stick to that surplus of a few kilos and keep on enjoying your food. Would it be worth it to reach a much higher age if you would have to renounce one of the most important joys of life?
Dirty dishes © Christian Delbert – Fotolia.com