The impact of junk food on mental health

Food glorious food... Or is it?


As a counsellor, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that our dietary choices can have on our mental well-being. In this second instalment of my series on eating and eating disorders, we'll delve into the often-overlooked relationship between junk food consumption and mental health.

Recent studies have shed light on the startling connections between our food choices and our emotional state, making it crucial for us to understand and address this issue.

The prevalence of junk food consumption

In today's fast-paced world, junk food has become a staple in many diets. A survey conducted by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) revealed that, in the UK, adults consume an average of 19.7% of their daily calories from junk food. This alarming statistic highlights the pervasiveness of unhealthy eating habits in our society.

Moreover, the current cost of living crisis has forced many individuals and families to rely on cheaper, less nutritious options. A recent study by The Food Foundation found that for a family of four in the UK, the cost of a healthy meal is £9.58, while a junk food meal costs only £4.92. This stark price difference makes it challenging for many to prioritise healthy eating.

The link between junk food and mental health

Research has consistently shown that a diet high in processed and junk foods can have detrimental effects on mental health. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that individuals who consumed a diet high in processed foods had a 58% increased risk of depression compared to those who ate a healthier diet.

Junk food consumption has been linked to increased levels of anxiety, stress, and mood disorders.

The nutritional impact on brain function

Junk food, often laden with sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients, can disrupt the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in our brains. These chemical messengers play a crucial role in regulating our mood, emotions, and cognitive function. A diet lacking in essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium, can contribute to the development of mental health issues.

Breaking the cycle: Strategies for change

Recognising the impact of junk food on mental health is the first step towards making positive changes. Encourage a gradual shift towards a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Educate yourself and others about the importance of mindful eating and the benefits of home-cooked meals.

Seek support from professionals, such as registered dietitians or counsellors, who can provide guidance and strategies for adopting healthier eating habits. For more dedicated support, please reach out to me at David’s Counselling.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of eating and mental health, it is essential to acknowledge the significant role that our dietary choices play in shaping our emotional well-being. By raising awareness about the impact of junk food on mental health and promoting healthier alternatives, we can work towards a future where individuals are empowered to make informed decisions about their food choices and prioritise their mental health.

In the next instalment of this series, we will explore the real cost of junk food and the steps that government and regulatory bodies can take to support better outcomes for all.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Epsom, Surrey, KT18
Written by David Campbell, Counsellor MBACP Registered Individual and Couples Therapy
Epsom, Surrey, KT18

David Campbell is a BACP registered therapist and offers outcome driven counselling in Epsom, Surrey and online giving you a safe, trusting and confidential place in which to be seen, heard and work through the issues you are facing. My practice is adapted to your needs allowing you to move forward with greater clarity and confidence in the future.

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