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What and When We Eat Determines Our Mental Well-Being – Here’s How

There is a very common saying, “What we eat is what we are”. However, studies have proved that it is not only what we eat, it is also when we eat matters, not just for physical health but for also mental health. Poor eating habits are one of the biggest reasons for increasing mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and many physical health issues like obesity, cardio problems, and diabetes.

These problems can be avoided by adopting healthy eating patterns, eating a balanced diet, and eating at the right time. Studies have found that our circadian clock, which is linked to the brain, is connected to external factors like light and food.

The human body is synchronized with all these external factors and accordingly, the human energy consumption needs differ throughout 24 hours, in the morning, the body requires most of the energy and as the day passes it reduces, hence it is important to maintain a synchronized pattern of eating food according to sunlight schedule. Otherwise, it can result in serious mental health issues as the brain consumes 25% of food energy to properly function,

Similarly, the digestive systems also have clocks, and the study shows that they also work differently throughout the day according to light and air quality. For instance liver and intestines work differently in terms of metabolic capacity, absorption, and digestion throughout the day. In the morning it functions better, and as the day passes its efficiency reduces. Therefore, to maintain physical health it is vital to eat food according to our digestive clock.

Our circadian and digestive clocks do not work in isolation. They are closely connected as they send signals to each other reflecting the changes they counter. Hence, disturbance in one part of the body affects the other part too. Let’s find out in more detail how our food consumption traits affect our well-being.

How Can you optimize your eating habits?

The intermittent fasting concept is gaining immense popularity for weight reduction, but research found, that it is very helpful to optimize eating habits, which eventually reduces obesity.

In intermittent fasting, the person has to maintain an eating cycle, it is recommended that 10 hours should be kept for eating, preferably from 9 am to 7 pm, because of the availability of light, and fasts for another 14 hours, during the night.

The research shows that these restricted eating habits increase the efficiency of energy-consuming metabolism and brain function. This also works as an anti-depressant and caters to insomnia. Further, it decreases the risk of physical diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and obesity.

How your mood is affected by food intake?

We generally hear that eating chocolate makes us happy, and all must have experienced it. It is not only limited to chocolates, but whenever we eat our favorite food we feel more satisfied. This shows there is a strong link between mood and neural circuits in the brain, which are responsible for monitoring our taste buds. So when we eat our favorite food, our digestive system produces dopamine hormones which send positive signals to the brain and improve our mood.

People who suffer from mental health issues like frustrations, and anxiety, often do not have healthy eating habits, consuming an unbalanced diet at irregular times worsens their health issues. Because our brain consumes 25% of the energy from food, not getting enough energy from food at the right time, results in brain malfunctioning.

However, improving eating habits is not yet included in many clinics to deal with psychiatric issues because experts say it requires much more research.

Circadian Rhythms in a 24-Hour World

We live in a world where we are exposed to artificial light 24-hours a day and are always access to food, which adversely disturbs our circadian clock. Due to artificial lights around us and irregular food intake, our body clocks do not get synchronized, resulting in negative impacts on our brain functions and physical health.

Studies show that the closer the person stays to nature, the better health he can maintain. So it is recommended that a person should wake up early and sleep early so that his body does not get much exposure to artificial lights and does not consume food at odd times.


Our eating habits play a major role in determining our mental and physical health. We should be very conscious in developing our eating routine. The more we synchronize our eating schedules with the sun, the longer we can maintain our health. Besides the timings, the quality of food is equally essential. We should try to eat a balanced diet having all the essential nutrients required for our body and brain.

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