Even though health researchers vary in their opinion of what constitutes a healthy diet, all agree that what you eat matters. Though each person differs on specific dietary requirements, whole foods such as fish, nuts, grains, and vegetables are always included on the menu. While a certain food may be good for others, it may not be for some.
Most of us know that having a poor diet and unhealthy life choices could affect your physical health negatively. However, having low amounts of nutrition in your body affects as well as your mental well-being. A review published in European Neuropsychopharmacology showed that what you eat also impacts your mental health.
How Your Food Intake Affects Your Mood
Eating healthy has tons of beneficial effects on our overall well-being. For one, taking regular, well-balanced meals help keep your energy and glucose levels in check. This further promotes clear thinking and a positive mood. Fiber-infused foods and those that are rich in protein help in controlling blood sugar.
Recent studies suggest that there are more underlying reasons and explanations for how our food intake affects our mental health. This is not surprising given that people who have specific mental health concerns are given specific diet plans such as the Mediterranean-style diet, Fibromyalgia diet, and ketogenic diet.
Accordingly, our brain and gastrointestinal tracts are more interconnected than we know it. Our gut contains millions of bacteria. These bacteria affect the production of various neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and dopamine.
By eating healthy foods, you facilitate increased good bacteria production in your gastrointestinal tract, which sequentially increases neurotransmitter production. On the other hand, a diet consisting mainly of junk and high preservatives can lead to inflammation in your gut. Such would restrict its production.
The major culprit that causes inflammation in our gut is sugar, as it increases the production of bad bacteria. The paradox, however, is that sugar can create a temporary spike in dopamine production. Nonetheless, the fleeting sugar rush only leads to mood fluctuations and other mental health concerns.
Foods That Promote Health
Here are some lists of foods you should consider putting on your grocery basket and plate next time.
Researchers concluded that preservatives and other food additives are linked with increased depression and hyperactivity. So, instead of grabbing some chips, candies, or other processed food for your snack, consider eating fruits and vegetables instead.
Magnesium is essential in helping your body not only to keep your heartbeat stable but also with muscle and nerve functioning. Moreover, loading up on magnesium-rich foods such as bananas, cacao nibs, almonds, and spinach, helps fight depression and feelings of anxiety.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria, useful to our digestive tract. Examples of these fermented food items are miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut. They can be high in sodium, however. Thus, consult first with your physician if you have certain medical conditions before eating them.
Belonging to the B-vitamins family, folate is essential for red and white blood cell production. Pregnants, adolescents, and infants need adequate intake of this mineral. Folate also is helpful for patients who have dementia and schizophrenia. Leafy greens, cantaloupes, and lentils are rich in folate.
According to studies, free radicals contribute to different mental health concerns, including major depression which leads to suicide. To prevent dark thoughts from clouding in, include in your diet foods abundant with antioxidants. Berries, foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens, and dark chocolates are some examples.
Vitamin D is responsible for serotonin production in our bodies. We usually get it from sunlight. Nonetheless, certain people experience Vitamin D deficiency. In this case, doctors recommend them taking supplements. If you prefer natural options, you can try certain types of mushrooms such as reishi and maitake.
Fiber-rich foods and healthy carbohydrates facilitate slow glucose absorption in your body. This mechanism helps you avoid experiencing a sudden spike and crash of sugar in your system. During meals, consider eating more green and leafy vegetables.
Embracing a diet that promotes mental health and well-being takes some additional effort at first. Not everyone is a fan of vegetables and fruits. But as they say, only the first part is the hardest.
Slowly but consistently incorporate fiber-rich foods in your meal. You can start by adding small portions of veggies to your meal and consistently increasing such portions.
You may also opt to try healthy food swaps such as eating whole-grain versions of rice, bread, and pasta. Instead of snacking on a bag of chips, consider biting on carrots and celery sticks dipped in hummus.
There are hundreds of recipes online which could help you as you transition and fully embrace a healthier diet.