You might have heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.”
Eating healthy food is not only beneficial for your body, but also essential for your mental and emotional well-being. Several studies have demonstrated the relationship between “food” and “mood.” Many healthy foods have also proved to be beneficial to mental and emotional health.
Sadly, the role of nutrition in mental health has been under-recognized by the health industry for many years. Thanks to the latest research, the connection between nutrition and emotional health is finally pushing its way into the mainstream.
How do certain foods work to improve your mood?
Dr. Mercola clarifies this relationship:
In a very real sense, you have TWO brains—one in your head, and one in your gut—both of which are created from the same tissue during fetal development.
These two systems are connected via your vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.
Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore paramount when trying to address your mental state.
Understanding the role of nutrition in mental and emotional health is important because one in five people suffers from depression, anger, and anxiety. Those mental problems can be minimized by ingesting certain minerals—like iron, Vitamin B12, and calcium.
A few changes in your diet may be effective at alleviating the symptoms of mental illness, mood swings, and other disorders.
However, you cannot just eat anything, whether it be a big, juicy hamburger or a slice of spicy pizza. Consume only healthy foods, rich in nutrients that benefit your mental health. Those foods are listed below:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
It is interesting to note that New Zealand reports having a 60 times more depressive population than does Japan; the Japanese diet is rich in cold water fish, rich in Omega 3 fatty acid.
Several studies have proved that Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for controlling psychiatric disorders, like bipolar disorder and depression. Sadly, our standard American diet lacks these essential nutrients, and depression has become a common mental illness in the US.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that include EPA and DHA. Studies have found that EPA affects the blood flow, hormones, and the immune system, influencing brain functions. Moreover, DHA facilitates the processes of shaping and transmitting electrical signals to the brain.
Great sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids are salmon, cod liver oil, walnuts, tuna, white fish, egg yolks, hemp seeds, and sardines.
Whole grains are counted among the best brain foods for many reasons. Enriched with glucose, they deliver glucose to the brain. Plus, they are helpful in reducing mood disorders by regulating spikes in blood sugar. Therefore, add brown rice and whole grain cereals and pastas, and granary bread to your diet to reap these rewards for your brain.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy veggies are rich in vitamin E and folate, which are believed to be good for improving memory. The folate level in green veggies like kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli in turn lowers the level of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is the amino acid that, in excess, can damage nerve cells in the brain.
Several fermented foods—like yogurt, olives or pickles—contain probiotics, which are healthy bacteria; probiotics have been found helpful in combatting cases of stress and anxiety. They also affect the GABA neurotransmitter.
Adding these foods to your diet is essential to your mental health. However, they don’t serve as alternatives to medications and other treatments for mental disorders. In addition to improving your diet, you must consult your doctor if you are suffering from any mental disorder.
It is important – and tasty! – to begin to integrate these healthy foods into your meals for your physical health and, just as importantly, your vibrant mental health.