What you eat directly affects your general health. But did you know that your diet does not only have effects on your physical wellbeing but also affects your mental health? Many studies have shown how food and general health together with mental health are connected. A healthy diet ensures that you keep a healthy body weight, a healthy heart, and a better mood. Here we look at nutrition and mental health.
Why Does Your Brain Require a Healthy Diet?
Think about this: Your brain is among the organs that work 24/7. It controls your thinking, sleep, movement, heartbeat, senses. In short, your brain controls whatever you do, even while sleeping. With this in mind, your brain needs energy or, in other words, fuel to keep going. This fuel comes from what we eat. Meaning, whatever we eat determines how our brain works.
Just like an expensive car, your brain can perform well under premium fuel. Food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants ensures that your brain is nourished and protected from oxidative stress produced when your body uses oxygen.
As with expensive cars, your brain is bound to be damaged when fueled with low-quality fuel. When you consume processed or refined foods, your brain has less or no ability to get rid of them. Processed or food rich in refined sugars are harmful to your brain and increase inflammation and oxidative stress. Different studies have shown that indeed there is a link between foods rich in refined sugars and impaired brain function. Additionally, these foods are best in worsening symptoms of mental challenges such as depression, stress, and anxiety.
To be in better physical and mental health, you need to feed in healthy and nutritious food. Failure to do this, you are bound to experience the above-mentioned mood disorders.
What’s the Connection Between Nutrition and Mental Health
Consuming a well-balanced diet can help boost your mood, increase energy levels and your thinking capacity. The wellbeing of your mood and general health depends on various aspects – the number of carbohydrates you ingest in your body together with the number of vitamins and minerals you take. If you take fewer carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals than required, the impact will manifest in physical and mental health.
Let’s have a look at how various foods affect your mood.
Proteins and fats
Your brain requires amino acids to assist in regulating your thinking capacity and feelings. Since protein is rich in amino acids, it’s advisable to feed on the right amount of proteins. You can get a good amount of protein from fish, eggs, lean meat, seeds and nuts, soy products, legumes, and cheese.
Alongside proteins, your body also needs healthy fats. Most people are under the impression that all fats are harmful to their bodies. However, this is far from the truth. Fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 are necessary for your brain to function well. Healy fats are found in oily fish, avocado, eggs, poultry, seeds, nuts, and dairy products. Since our brain is 60% fat, it requires omega 3 fatty acids to help neurons communicate well.
Nutrition and Mental Health – Carbohydrates
For your brain to be able to concentrate and focus, energy is essential. The brain uses 20% of the required energy. Most energy comes from blood glucose which comes from carbohydrates you consume.
If you do not consume the right amount of carbohydrates, you won’t have enough energy, and the results will be a weakness, fatigue, and inability to think clearly. Ensure that your daily diet is packed with the right amount of carbohydrates for you to be energetic. Sources of carbohydrates include pasta, whole grains, rice, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
However, avoid food that may cause a rapid rise or fall of blood sugar, such as sweets and food with processed sugar. Rapid rise and fall of your blood sugar may cause irritation and may also trigger symptoms of anxiety. Try food that releases energy slowly, such as cereals, nuts and seeds, oat, and remember to eat small portions throughout the day.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential for both physical and mental health. To get these vitamins and minerals, you need to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Some vitamins and minerals can also be found in the form of supplements, but you can only know which supplements to take with the help of your doctor or nutritionist. Let’s learn how deficiency of some vitamins or minerals can affect your mood:
- Iron: Deficiency in iron can cause tiredness and weakness causing you to feel anxious. You can get the right amount of iron from red meat, fish, poultry, beans, and fortified cereals.
- Folate: Low amounts of folate in your body may cause symptoms of depression. Green vegetables, liver, beans, and citrus fruits are all good sources of folate.
- B vitamins: Ensure that you get the right amounts of B1, B3, and B12 to avoid irritation and feeling low. Eat fish, eggs, fortified cereals, and meat regularly to avoid deficiency of these vitamins.
- Selenium: Low amounts of selenium may lead to feelings of depression and a negative state of mind. You can get selenium from seeds, wholemeal bread, meat, Brazil nuts, and fish.
To benefit from all these nutrients, you are required to eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruits daily.
Nutrition and Mental Health – Final Thoughts
Your brain needs to be healthy and energetic to be in the right state of mind. Physical activities, a healthy diet, enough rest and sleep, and water are essential for a well-functioning brain. Remember that your brain controls how you feel physically and emotionally. Therefore, there is a need to feed your brain with the right kind of energy from a well-balanced diet to avoid mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and stress.