Did you know that what you consume daily can directly correlate with your mental health? Food can impact how you feel physically, including your energy levels and strength, as well as mentally, including your mood and anxiety. The relationship between mental health and diet is complex but has been shown strong from several scientific studies. While many things in your environment will impact your mental wellbeing, including the level of stress that you are exposed to, your physical activity, and more, diet is something you have complete control over. Here are some important facts on how food can impact your mental health, and steps you can take to improve it.
How does food impact your mental health?
Not getting enough nutrients
If you live on a diet of highly processed foods, likely, your body is not getting a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins that it needs to function. You may also be eating foods such as palm oil and butter, which prevents the food from being converted into the nutrients that the body requires. Nutrients are crucial for your heart and development, your immune system, and your cognitive function. If your brain is not sufficiently fueled, it can lead to low moods, lack of concentration and attention span, impaired decision making and reaction times, and fatigue.
Consuming high sugar food such as chocolate, and stimulants such as caffeine can impact the brain by tricking it into releasing chemicals. This is because it believes we are lacking that particular chemical, which can then alter your mood. Stimulants can also make you feel more anxious than usual, and then cause your body to crash a few hours later due to your blood levels spiking higher than usual, which can then lead to sudden feelings of fatigue and low moods.
Certain food, particularly processed foods, can cause hormonal imbalances in your body, especially if they are rich in hydrogenated and saturated fats. This is because food can impact the production and secretion of certain hormones in your body, as it affects your gut health, changes the concentration level of your blood metabolites, and can also impact the circulation of gut hormone levels. Imbalances with your hormones can lead to increased stress and anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
How to Eat to Improve Your Mental Health
A good diet, that contains balance and variety, can significantly improve your physical health, as well as your mental health.
Eat a variety of food
Incorporating a variety of food, including whole grain, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit will provide your body and brain with the fuel it needs to function properly, and help improve your energy levels, and your mood. Make sure you don’t just eat the same thing every day, or every week because your body needs a variety of nutrients and vitamins to thrive.
Eat to improve your gut health
Science has shown an increasing link between your gut health and your mental health. It can therefore be beneficial to incorporate food that will boost your gut health. Not only does this include a variety of food, but also prebiotics, probiotics, and meals filled with important amino acids such as this freshly made chicken broth recipe, which has been shown to significantly improve gut health if consumed regularly.
Eat foods that promote brain health
Your body and brain require the right nutrition to be able to grow effectively and function adequately. To do this, you will need to ensure you consume a variety of minerals such as fatty acids, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. These include quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, chicken, soybeans, fish, eggs, and flaxseeds. The nutritional value of these kinds of food is much higher and will provide your body with the right kind of energy it requires.
Drinking enough water is vital for your mental health, and reduces the risk of anxiety and depression. Not only can a lack of water make you feel more fatigued, but it can also take its toll on your mood. The brain is made up of 75% water and requires sufficient hydration (with a fine balance of nutrients too) to function at an optimum level. Without proper hydration, your concentration and emotional processes will suffer.
Mindful eating is the practice of paying more attention to what you eat, and when you eat. When you pay close attention, you gain a good insight into your patterns to ensure you are not eating more or less when you are stressed. It can also act as a moment of mindfulness, which in itself is a practice that supports mental health. Making your meal times an activity to give your full attention to will help you stay in the present moment, and stress less.
Eating is not just about losing weight, it is also an important factor in your mental health and how you feel every day. By making small changes to your diet, you can live healthier, and happier.
Thank you for reading!