It is an established fact that there is a direct relationship between an unhealthy diet and poor physical health. Medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are manifestations of an inappropriate diet over a long period.
The brain and body communicate with each other when we eat. One signals the other about how hungry or full we are or whether we want a salty snack or a sweet treat. The food we put into us forms the biochemistry of our thoughts and emotions. It is a two-way process.What we eat affects how we feel and the way we feel determines what we want to eat at that moment.
Let’s examine some healthy food and eating patterns that have a positive influence on our mood and ultimately, our mental health.
Our blood sugar tends to drop if we skip a meal and go hungry. We have all noticed that we become cranky, irritated, or gloomy when we stay hungry for too long.
That happens because of low sugar levels. To keep sugar levels steady, we should have a meal or snack every three to four hours. Try not to have a large meal at lunch or dinner. It is better to have smaller portions spaced out regularly throughout the day.
We should ensure that we don’t skip our breakfast. We need maximum energy at the start of the day. When it comes to food for our first meal of the day, we should make good choices. We could have a cereal rich in fiber with a bowl of fruits or a cup of oatmeal with milk and berries. Including nuts, oats, and whole grains keeps our mood stable.
Proteins are an essential nutrient that our body requires every day, especially if we workout. Our body uses 50,000 different proteins, which it makes from amino acids.
These amino acids affect our alertness, our mood and our ability to solve problems. Protein regulates brain chemicals that help stabilize our thoughts and feelings. It also helps control our blood sugar and insulin levels as they are slow energy releasing foods.
Foods that are rich in protein are nuts, milk, yogurt, cheese, green peas, quinoa, soy, sprouts, beans, eggs, fish and chicken. If we are eating meat, buy the best quality meat we can afford.
The food we eat can alter the chemical composition of our brain. A higher intake of carbohydrates triggers a feel-good brain chemical that elevates mood and has a calming effect. It has been found that not taking the recommended amount of carbohydrates can leave us feeling tired and irritated.
We should be careful about our pick of carbohydrates. Complex carbs that are high in fiber and packed with whole grains have a positive effect on mood. Bananas, sweet potatoes, beetroots, blueberries, and apples are a few examples of healthy high carbohydrate foods.
Drinking herbal tea like chamomile helps ease anxiety by aiding the nervous system. Vitamin C enables the body to cope with stress. Lemons, oranges, peas, tomatoes, broccoli, and papaya are some foods rich in vitamin C. Selenium rich foods improve mild depression. Seafood, whole wheat bread, and red meat contain selenium.
If we are of the thought that a decline in mental health is not something that will start to happen until we are really old, then we should think again. A decrease in memory and reasoning capacity can start to affect our brains as early as around 45 years of age , We cannot afford to ignore food that is healthy for the brain.
Some foods which can help are avocados, beans, bananas and poultry like chicken, turkey and eggs which boost alertness and improve concentration. Zinc is an important ingredient in our diet and is required to enhance memory and thinking skills. Pumpkin seeds, nuts, and beans are rich in zinc. Intake of zinc has also been found to be helpful in fighting depression and anxiety.
Did you know? Mild dehydration, especially in young women, can cause headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
To function properly, brain cells need a delicate balance between water and other elements Our brain cells lose efficiency if that balance gets disturbed.
Dehydration happens when the body loses more fluid than what goes in. When the normal water content of the body is reduced, it upsets the balance of minerals, like salts and sugars, in the body, which affects the way it functions.
Ensure an optimal water intake. We all have heard of the 8 by 8 rule which says that one should drink 8 glasses of water from an 8-ounce glass. That works out to two liters a day. Include herbal or green tea and diluted fruit juices in our diet to the keep water level steady.
Fruits and vegetables are flush with minerals, vitamins, and fibers that keep us physically and mentally healthy. A diet that consists of different colored fruits and vegetables every day ensures that we get a good range of nutrients.
Multiple portions of the same type of food will not be very beneficial to us.Variety is fundamental. Mushrooms, tomatoes, and bananas contain lots of potassium which is essential for our nervous system. Green leafy vegetables contain vitamin B which regulates the body’s hormones to help fight stress and depression.
We all know that insufficient iron in the diet can make us anemic, which causes our energy level to drop and we end up feeling continuously tired and lethargic. Mushrooms, apricots, spinach, asparagus, coconuts, beans and peas are rich in iron.
Chromium found in onions, romaine lettuce and tomatoes help regulate blood sugar and brain chemicals that are essential for stable moods. It has been found that a deficiency of chromium might lead to atypical depression which is characterized by tiredness and frequent mood dips.
Our state of mind is closely dependent on the health of our gut. This is because our gut communicates with our brain and uses the same chemicals as the latter.
Foods that have been proven healthy for the gut are those high in fiber content like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A few examples of fruits and vegetables rich in fiber are avocados, pears, blackberries, broccoli and black beans. Probiotics found in yogurt are equally important .
Our gut might take a little time to get used to our new eating patterns. So, it is recommended to make changes slowly and give our body time to adjust.
A Mediterranean diet consists of primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds and olives, extra virgin olive oil as the main dietary fat and fish, with moderate red wine intake and minimal consumption of processed food, confectionery, and red meat.
A traditional Mediterranean style diet may do more than improve physical health; it may also improve the life quality of people with depression.
The idea is to add more veggies, herbs and nuts to our diet for a healthier mind and body.
To conclude let’s reaffirm that there is a strong connection between the mind and body. Just like a physical ailment can pull us down mentally, being mentally unfit can give rise to physical problems.
Let’s resolve to take care of our emotions and moods in the most natural way possible. Overseeing and tailoring our diet can go such a long way in ensuring a . healthy gut, a steady mind, strong internal organs, and a well-functioning physical structure.
So, watch what you eat today and every day for a happier and more productive tomorrow!