Mental Health: The Importance of Nutrition and Healthy Diet
We are taught since childhood that nutritious food is essential for a healthy body. That’s the reason mothers emphasize feeding their children green and leafy vegetables and fruits. However, not many people know that our diet has a huge impact on our mental well-being as well.
Mental Health in Today’s Era
We live in an age of ultimate convenience. Our luxuries and even necessaries are available on our phones which is why more and more people have started to live a sedentary lifestyle. Our cravings for bad food has also increased greatly which is affecting not just our physical health, but our mental health as well. For instance, according to a recent study that was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry that analyzed previous 41 studies on the connection between diet and depression, eating junk food significantly increases the risk of depression. However, there are many other studies that have found that junk food can cause others kinds of mental health problem, including anxiety and attention deficit disorder.
Why do we Need Healthy Food?
The food we eat greatly affects how we feel. Its secret lies in serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our mood and appetite. Since 95% of this neurotransmitter is produced in our gastrointestinal tract, it means that our emotions are connected to our digestive system.
The production of serotonin is affected by the “good” bacteria that we have in our intestines. These bacteria protect our digestive system against the “bad” bacteria and a variety of toxins. This is the reason why that people who take probiotics i.e. supplements that promote the growth of “good” bacteria tend to be less stressful and mentally healthier than those who don’t.
The way unhealthy food affects our mood is properly documented too. For instance, aspartame which is an artificial sugar commonly found in soft drinks and other beverages contains an amino acid that can restrict the production of serotonin in your body which can affect your mood. Similarly, trans fats which are particular to junk food including burgers, fries, etc. can disrupt the balance of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. This can lead to a terrible mood as studies have found a link between a lack of omega-3 fatty acids and problems like depression and pessimism.
Foods that are Good for Mental Health
For good mental health, make sure that you include as many of the following food items in your diet:
Carrot is easily one of the most nutritious vegetables you can find in your pantry and the best way to enjoy it is in the form of juice.
One of the many benefits of carrot juice is that it promotes a sense of joy because it contains a substance that’s related to endorphins. So, regular consumption of the juice can keep you happy and improve eyesight, cleanse liver, protect tooth enamel, etc.
Yogurt is one of the best natural sources of probiotic bacteria. These probiotics help in proper digestion so that you can get the best nutrition from the food you eat which in turn improves mental health.
Most forms of berries including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C which improve your brain’s health and memory.
Animal liver is a rich source of vitamin B12 which is really important for your mental health. In fact, a deficiency of vitamin B12 can be linked to depression. So, make sure you understand the importance of vitamin 12 in your physical and mental wellbeing and eat at least a small amount of liver once or twice a month.
Foods to Avoid
The following are some of the popular foods that you should steer clear from:
For sheer convenience, a lot of people consume packaged fruit juice rather than making juice from fresh fruit. However, this laziness can harm your mental health as the packaged fruit juice is high in sugar which can lead to a sugar-crash that contributes to anxiety. It you already suffer from depression it can aggravate and increase your symptoms.
Dairy is good in moderation. However, if you are not careful and consume too much, then you can a victim of the dangers of dairy which are linked to casein, a protein found in dairy products that can cause inflammation. Casein is also associated with serious conditions like depression and schizophrenia.
Gluten is a glue-like protein found in wheat which can be highly inflammatory. Although it’s largely found in wheat, your body may also recognize gluten in grains like rye, oatmeal, or barley.
Gluten is bad for you for many reasons. It can affect digestion by sticking food particles together and irritate the gut microbes. It’s also found to cause anxiety, nerve damage, and headaches.
So, by now you must have a pretty good idea of how your diet affects your mental and physical wellness. However, if you want to live a healthy life, then be sure to take note of other factors as well which include physical exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep patterns.