How does nutrition impact mental health?
What we eat doesn’t just affect our physical health, it can also affect our mental health and well-being. The relationship between our diet and our mental health is complex. However, research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel. The fuel that you give your body and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.
Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. A lot of the processed foods we eat are highly addictive and stimulate the dopamine centers in our brain, which are associated with pleasure and reward. To stop craving unhealthy foods, you’ve got to stop eating those foods. You start to change the physiology in the brain when you pull added sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet.
To boost your mental health, focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables along with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are crucial for the proper function of your brain and nervous system. You can find them in fish, meat, eggs, nuts, and flaxseeds. Dark green leafy vegetables in particular are brain protective. Nuts, seeds, and legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also excellent brain foods. Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice and starchy vegetables can give you energy. Quinoa, beets, and sweet potatoes have more nutritional value and will keep you satisfied longer than the simple carbohydrates found in sugar and candy. Lean proteins also give energy that allows your body to think and react quickly. Good sources of protein include chicken, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Steer clear of processed snack foods, which can impair your ability to concentrate. Pass up sugar-filled snacks, such as candy and soft drinks, which can lead to ups and downs in energy levels. Instead, consume plenty of healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado. This will support your brain function. Have a healthy snack when hunger strikes, such as fruit, nuts. This will give you more energy than packaged products.
Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and can help with mental health.