Worldwide, depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health problems. Aside from medication, meditation, and breathing techniques, there has been a surge in interest in the association between nutrition and mental health in recent years- and for a good reason.
You see, everything you eat has an impact on the way you feel. Think of the brain as just another organ that has its own nutrition and calorie demands. According to research, the brain uses approximately 20% of your total daily calories, and these calories need to be nutritionally dense.
Generally, it needs a balance of nutrients in order to function properly, and if it doesn’t get them, it can malfunction and cause a multitude of symptoms. Similar to any other body part and a nutritional deficiency. For instance, if you don’t get enough iron, you are likely to experience tiredness and fatigue. Whereas, for the brain to function properly, it needs a regular intake of B vitamins, omega-3s, and proteins.
In this post, you’ll learn how nutrition affects your mood and which foods to eat and avoid.
How food and nutrition affect mental health?
Everything you eat, whether fruit, cookies, or anything else, will provide you with certain nutrients. Some foods contain more carbohydrates and proteins whereas others contain more refined sugars and saturated fats. Whatever you choose to eat will have an impact on the way you feel, and especially if you continue to eat the same things over and over again for a prolonged period of time.
Nutrition and mental health are somewhat codependent. Think about it this way, if you exercise regularly, you’re likely to feel inclined to also eat healthier. If you eat healthier and exercise regularly, you’re likely to experience better mood, less stress, less anxiety, and better cognitive function.
On the other hand, if you have a more sedentary job or lifestyle, you are likely to grab snacks throughout the day that have little to no nutritional value. As a result of poor nutrition, you are likely to feel tired, demotivated, sluggish, and more. As the sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating continue, you are likely to start feeling sad and experience bouts of anxiety and depression. The point is that both a healthy lifestyle and nutrition go hand in hand with a better mood and fewer instances of mental health problems.
The first step to improving your health can be more physical activity or nutrition. Let’s start off with nutrition today.
5 foods to eat for better mood
Research shows that the best diet for improving your mood is a Mediterranean diet. This means that there is a lot of emphasis on natural foods, nuts, seeds, and more.
Salmon is a fish that is particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids which are vital for your cognitive thinking and memory. Some research also suggests that salmon is a great food for brain health as it can protect the brain from cognitive decline. This means that it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven by a number of studies to reduce the severity of depression.
Avocadoes are great for your mental health thanks to their nutritional profile. They are rich in vitamin K and B vitamins which support your brain health and reduce the risk of stroke and cognitive decline.
Some research suggests B vitamins like B5 and B9 to reduce anxiety and depression by supporting your adrenal glands and balancing hormones.
Asparagus, and its stem extract, have a great impact on your mental health as it regulates the cortisol hormones. Cortisol is commonly referred to as a ‘stress hormone’ because it is released during situations of stress and gives you the ‘flight or fight’ sensation.
Some early research suggests that asparagus contains natural properties that regulate the levels of cortisol which can reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Spinach is a rich source of magnesium and folic acid, both of which support brain health. Some early research suggests that it reduces stress and anxiety in people who are vulnerable to these conditions. Other sources of magnesium include swiss chard, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Whole grains are great for improving your mood and mental health because they regulate your blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can induce mood swings. If you’ve ever felt ‘hangry’ then this is due to those fluctuating sugar levels.
Whole grains are rich in fiber which is well known for slowing down digestion and regulating sugar levels. In addition, they also make you feel fuller for longer which reduces your appetite. This in turn can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Antioxidants for better mood?
Depression and anxiety aren’t always just linked to future fear or past experiences but also your immune system. You see, your immune system is responsible for flushing out viruses and harmful bacteria from the body which can make it difficult for the body to communicate with the brain. Your gut health has large implications in regards to how you feel. Therefore, strengthening your immune system through the consumption of antioxidants can greatly improve your mood and mental health.
Antioxidants for better mood
- Fruits – orange, grapefruit, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries
- Nuts – cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans
- Vegetables – Broccoli, beetroot, kale and spinach
In summary, nutrition and different foods have an incredible effect on the body, and consuming a balanced diet can truly make a difference to your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Nutrition helps your body to communicate better with the brain and helps to improve your memory, cognitive function, focus, and much more.
Try to consume foods that are high in antioxidants, fibre, and certain vitamins and minerals that support your mental health.