Good nutrition isn’t just for weight loss but it also can impact your mood and wellness as well.
Your mental health can be impacted to a certain degree by why you eat.
While eating right isn’t the end-all to your mental health and wellness, it can be a great benefit for your overall health.
Best of all, you don’t even need to follow a paleo diet or any other specific diets in order for your nutrition to improve your mental health, it is about eating what works for you and your body.
Here, we’ll go over how it can make a lasting impact on your health, and the best ways to take care of your mental health
Food and Mood Science
The science behind the interaction of food and mood lies in the GI tract. In this part of our bodies is billions of bacteria, which actually influence your neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine, which stabilize our mood.
When you eat right, you’re basically encouraging the “good” bacteria that’s in your tract to grow. This influences everything, but most of all neurotransmitter production.
So, it can help improve your mental health, and stave off the effects of depression.
On the flip side, foods that are high in carbs, fats, and sugars actually hamper production of this good bacteria, and cause inflammation.
This also affects neurotransmitter production too, and it can affect how these messages to your brain are communicated.
When you eat correctly, you’re basically giving your brain a bunch of good messages that will increase levels of serotonin or dopamine and in turn increase levels of happiness.
This gives us the ability to fight off symptoms of depression, as it is clinically proven that low levels of serotonin and dopamine can be related to depression.
If you’re eating poorly, it will affect the production of these certain neurotransmitters, and it can affect communication to your brain, and thus, your mood.
Sugar: The Biggest Culprit
Probably the biggest culprit to all of this is sugar.
Sugar, not only is bad for your body in excess amounts since it increases inflammation, causes insulin resistance, and can ultimately lead to other health issues, but it can also affect your mood too.
When we consume sugar, it causes massive inflammation at an increasingly fast speed, and bacteria in our GI tract will live off of that sugar.
This is what causes that dopamine rush of “feel good” neurotransmitters, and that can reduce serotonin production.
That’s why, after you eat sugary food to cope with depression you end up feeling a huge crash afterward, causing unstable mood swings from the food consumed.
This is part of the reason that people get into the habit of eating when emotional, because sugary foods will cause a mood crash, so to subsidize the bad mood we eat more of the same sugary food.
When you have less sugary foods, it can help with reducing these massive spikes and dips, which will in turn stabilize your mood.
Foods Can Control Your Mood
Foods can control your mood. If you eat a diet of healthy food, it reduces mood fluctuations, and you’ll notice yourself feeling much happier.
Both because of the mentioned effects of neurotransmitters, but also due to the food nourishing your body with what it needs.
It can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and of course reduces your risk for dementia, strokes, and other chronic illnesses.
So yes, your diet can impact your mood, as well as your physical health and wellness.
The Best Foods and Diet for Mental Health
While trying to focus on your diet to improve your mental health, you have to listen to your body and know what you need.
This includes recognizing any deficiencies you may have in your diet, as well as following a well-rounded diet that includes all the nourishment you need.
One great diet for your mental health is a Mediterranean style diet with a fish oil supplement.
This can help reduce depression in many people.
Try to reduce the levels of saturated fats, refined carbs, and also processed and junk foods.
So, what other foods should you eat?
Well, consider the following:
- Whole foods, without additives or preservatives
- Fibrous fruits and veggies
- Whole grains rather than processed grains
- Beans and legumes
- Leafy greens
- Folate-rich foods such as lentils and cantaloupes
- Foods with vitamin D in it, including mushrooms
- Nuts including cashews and almonds
- Fermented foods such as tempeh, kimichi, and sauerkraut
- Lean meats rather than fatty meats
- Dark chocolate
These foods are ideal for your mental health. Consider slowly integrating these into your diet and try to go for a diet that offers optimal nutrition, so it can help not just with obesity and other mortality issues, but also with your mental health.
More than Just What You Eat
While your diet can play a part in your overall mood, for mental health issues, it is important to look beyond what you eat.
Getting help for any mental health concerns you may have is very important. It is important that you treat your mental health with as much attention as you do your physical health.
For example, seeking a therapist when you’re feeling down just as you would visit a doctor if you had a fever or other symptoms.
Counseling from BetterHelp can improve your life in different ways. If you tend to emotional eat, cutting that may be harder than you think, and a counselor can help you work through that.
While discipline and control of what you eat is important, getting assistance for the underlying problems regarding what you eat is very important, and it can make a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing.