Many of us are know the importance of having a balanced diet for our physical health. However, only a few know that nutrition plays a key role in bolstering and benefitting our mental health as well. More and more researches published in printed journals and floating on the internet are now making it increasingly clear that foods heavily influence both our physical and mental wellness.
This article takes a closer look at the strong bonding between food and mood. It also discusses in detail how good gut health can back and benefit your mental health. Let us now dig into the details about the role of nutrition in mental health.
Understanding the Link between Food & Mood
Eating a nutrition-rich and well-rounded diet uplifts your mood, boosts energy levels, and helps in clear thinking. A variety of elements play their individual roles in the scenario, ranging from the amount of carbs on your daily palette to the deficiencies in essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. All these impact your mental health and happiness.
Let us first talk about carbohydrates. Brain health is important for concentration on topic and clarity in thoughts. Your brain needs plenty of energy (20% of what your body needs) for its proper functioning. Carbohydrates provide us with glucose and blood glucose is the main source of energy our body needs and spends.
Insufficient supply of carbs causes body fatigue and impairs our mind. Having enough carbs on your daily diet chart keeps both your body and mind in fine fettle. The following foods are a great source of carbohydrates:
- Whole grains
- Lower fat dairy
Rapid rise and fall in blood glucose level heavily and harshly impact your mood, cause irritation and trigger anxiety symptoms. Therefore, keeping your blood sugar level controlled and steady is important. Eat oats, nuts, cereals, seeds etc, as these help release energy slowly. Make sure to take them in small portions throughout the day.
Fats and Proteins
Most people think fat is bad. Let us not think that way. In fact, not all fats are bad for health. Low-fat diets adversely affect our mental well-being. However, fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6 are important for our brain health. The brain contains nearly 60% of fat and nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs, avocados, fish and poultry are rich in fats.
Apart from carbohydrates, protein is also a great source of energy for your brain. Amino acid in protein-rich foods helps regulate both feelings and thoughts. Protein is abundant in eggs, fish, meat, cheese, nuts, legumes and soya products.
Vitamins and Minerals
Deficiencies in some specific vitamins and minerals cause suffering to our physical and mental health. The best way to prevent it is to be on a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of foods high in vitamins and minerals.
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Sometimes, you need to take a supplement to compensate for the diet deficiencies in minerals and vitamins.
Hydration and nutrition are hands-in-glove friends. Dehydration Anxiety is a fear psychosis that the ‘Subject’ is not taking plenty of water. If you ever forget to carry a water bottle while travelling somewhere, Dehydration Anxiety will lead to overconsumption of water and eventually result in illness. The fear arises from a feeling that you are low on hydration and it will interfere into proper body functioning. If not managed in the primary stage, it could become a chronic problem leading to orthorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Hydration and Nutritional Therapy
The general recommendation for water intake is 6-8 glasses a day, along with your personal dietary needs. The actual need for dehydration varies from one individual to another. Therefore, you should tune into your individual lifestyle while deciding on how much water intake will suffice your body.
Nutritional therapists claim that a number of factors including your age, gender, diet, lifestyle and exercise, contribute to your water needs.
While it is important to listen to your thirst, a good way to determine your water intake is via urine color. Pale yellow is the natural color of urine. However, some diseases such as, Jaundice and some medications like Riboflavin (Vitamin B12) can make the color dark yellow.
Many vegetables and fruits are high in water and so counted into the amount of your daily water intake. These include celery, cabbage, courgette, cucumber, potato, tomato etc. Even eggs and salmon contribute to your daily water consumption if they are not overcooked. If your diet does not include much of vegetables and fruits, make sure to drink more water for proper hydration.
If you are worried that you are taking too much or too little of water, discuss the problem with a nutritional therapist who can offer a suitable solution customized to your particular situation.
Belly and Brain
Gut health is important for your brain health, overall physical wellbeing and mental stability. Often referred to as ‘Second Brain’, the gut is the Manufacturing Unit of over 90% of all serotonin, also known as ‘happy’ hormone.
Our gut impacts resilience and immunity to stress, which can heavily influence our mood. A healthy digestive system helps your body easily absorb all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that your brain needs to work properly.
Often, we get a strong feel of our stress and anxiety in our gut. Digestion is inversely proportional with depression, implying that poor digestion can be contributed to high depression and vice versa. Make sure to take plenty of fiber and fluid to keep your belly happy. It is also important to exercise regularly for the sake of your gut health.
Fermented foods create microbiome for good bacteria to thrive in your gut. Therefore, place them on your regular diet chart. Whole grains, beans, pulses, vegetables and fruits etc are other gut-friendly foods.
Medication and Diet
Certain medications need a special diet chart. So, if you are taking medications, ask your physician if you need any dietary changes for your daily intake.
Curb on Caffeine
Caffeine is a happy-to-go-with instant energy provider. Hot brewing coffee tastes delicious but its stimulating properties might cause sleep disturbances and even insomnia. Furthermore, frequent caffeine intake might also trigger the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you drink tea, coffee or other energy drinks daily and/or more often, swap them with non-caffeinated drinks such as herbal teas. Decaf versions will offer you relish and refresh without causing any harm.
You need to take a holistic approach towards mental health. Eat a nutrition-rich balanced diet that your belly and brain need; after all, these two are the major powerhouses to control your mental balance and beauty. If you are undecided on what to take for your mental health and wellbeing, always reach out to a nutritionist who can work through your particular needs to tailor a diet plan for you.