What we eat doesn’t simply influence our physical health: it could also influence our mental health and wellbeing.
The relation between food and mood originates from the direct connection between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract, which is sometimes referred to as the “second brain.” Billions of bacteria live in your GI tract, influencing the creation of neurotransmitters, which are chemical compounds that continually transport messages from the stomach to the brain. (Two common examples are dopamine and serotonin.)
Eating nutritious foods encourages the growth of “good” bacteria, which has a favourable effect on neurotransmitter synthesis. A consistent diet of junk food, on the other hand, might promote inflammation, which can stifle output. When your brain’s neurotransmitter production is in excellent health, it gets these positive messages loud and clear, and your emotions reflect it.
A Mediterranean-style diet (rich in vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil, cereal, and grains) combined with fish oil helps alleviate depressive symptoms. On the other hand, there are two types of foods that are harmful to the brain: those that trick the brain into releasing chemicals that we may be missing, temporarily influencing our mood (for example, caffeine and chocolate), and those that discourage the conversion of other foods into nutrients which the brain requires (for example, saturated fat such as butter, lard and palm oil).
THREE WAYS YOUR DIET AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
- It is essential for brain development – When we eat healthy food, it transforms into protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters, which transport information and impulses across different regions of the brain and body.
- It shifts the brain into growth mode – Some nutrients and dietary habits are associated with alterations in a brain protein that aids in the formation of new synapses between brain cells. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and zinc raises levels of this chemical. A diet heavy in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, has a significant detrimental influence on brain proteins.
- It fills up the gut with beneficial bacteria – The gut contains trillions of beneficial microorganisms. They keep harmful bacteria at bay and your immune system in check, which means they assist to control inflammation in the body. Some gut bacteria even aid in the production of brain-boosting B vitamins.
FOODS THAT PROMOTE GOOD HEALTH
- Whole foods – Preservatives, food colouring, and other chemicals have been linked to hyperactivity and depression in certain studies. So, if you only remember one thing, remember to consume real food, which is food which has been minimally processed and has a few nutritious components. Consider eating fresh fruits and veggies.
- Fiber – Plant-based meals are high in fibre, which helps your body digest glucose – or food sugars – more slowly, avoiding sugar highs and lows. Fruits and vegetables, as well as nutrient-dense carbohydrates like whole grains and legumes, are high in fibre.
- Antioxidants – These anti-inflammatory compounds are abundant in berries, leafy green vegetables, turmeric, and foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and black chia seeds. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants as well.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D aids in the synthesis of serotonin and is often obtained by exposure to sunshine. However, mushrooms, particularly reishi, cordycep, and maitake, are an excellent source. If you are vitamin D deficient, your doctor may also advise you to take a supplement.
- Magnesium – This important mineral aids in everything from nerve and muscle function to maintaining a regular pulse. However, it is also critical to the food-mood relation: A mineral shortage can harm your gut microbes and produce anxiety-like symptoms. Natural sources include dark chocolate, cacao nibs, almonds, and cashews, spinach and other dark leafy greens, bananas, and beans.
- Fermented foods – Fermented foods are high in probiotics, which are living microorganisms that are beneficial to the digestive tract. Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and the fermented drink kombucha are a few examples. These items are also rich in sodium, so eat them in limit or avoid them entirely if you have hypertension.
Begin to pay attention to how different meals make you feel – not only in the moment, but also the day after. For two to three weeks, try eating a “healthy” diet, which includes avoiding all refined carbohydrates and sweets. Take note of how you feel. Then, one by one, gradually reintroduce items into your diet to observe how you feel. When some individuals “go clean,” they can’t believe how much healthier they feel, both mentally and physically, and how much worse they feel when they reintroduce items known to increase inflammation.