How Your Diet Affects Your Mental Health & Well-being
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to forget the importance of nutrition in maintaining our mental health. What we eat can have a significant impact on our mood, energy levels, and overall well-being. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at will explore the connection between nutrition and mental health.
Focusing on the role of protein, fruits, vegetables and Omega 3 rich foods along with other lifestyle factors to help support our mood.
Fruit & Vegetables and your Mood : What's the connection
Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression and anxiety. One study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that participants who increased their fruit and vegetable intake reported that their mood was better along with overall well being.
According to the World Health Organization, adults should consume a minimum of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, or about 5 servings. However, many nutritionists recommend aiming for closer to 7-10 servings per day to reap the full health benefits.
In terms of which fruits and vegetables are best for overall mood health, it’s important to aim for a variety of colours and types. Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in folate, which has been shown to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Berries, particularly blueberries, are rich in antioxidants and have been linked to improved cognitive function and mood. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are high in vitamin C, which can help reduce stress and boost immunity.
Other vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes are also great options for their nutrient density and mood-boosting potential. It’s important to note that fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are always the best choice, but frozen or canned varieties can still provide valuable nutrients.
Studies have shown that the beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables on mood can be attributed to their high levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. These nutrients help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain and reduce inflammation throughout the body, both of which can help to improve our mood and overall mental well-being.
Feeding your brain with PROTEIN
Protein is an essential nutrient that is important for building and repairing tissues in the body, including the brain. It is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, and plays a vital role in various bodily functions. When we consume protein, it is broken down into amino acids that are used to build and repair muscle tissues and other structures in the body.
In terms of mood, protein is important because it helps regulate the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for regulating mood and emotions. When we consume protein, it provides the body with the amino acids needed to produce these neurotransmitters. This can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It’s important to note that the amount of protein needed can vary depending on factors such as age, gender, and physical activity levels. However, in general, a diet that includes a variety of protein sources such as lean meats, fish, poultry, beans, lentils, and dairy products can help provide the body with the necessary amino acids needed for optimal physical and mental health.
As a general rule of thumb I advise my nutritional therapy clients to make sure they include between 1.2g – 1.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight each day.
Gut Feeling: How Probiotics Can Boost Your Mood
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can improve gut health when included in your diet. The gut-brain connection is the mechanism behind probiotics’ ability to affect mood. The gut and brain communicate through the nervous system and neurotransmitters.
Probiotics can be found in certain types of food. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso, contain live microbes that can act as probiotics in the gut. Additionally, some dairy products, such as milk and cheese, can be fortified with probiotics. It’s important to note that not all fermented foods contain live probiotics, as some are heated during processing, which can kill off the beneficial microbes.
Cutting Refined Carbs for a Clearer Mind
There’s a link between our mood and consuming a lot of refined sugar (like those found in sweets, desserts, fizzy drinks etc).
One of the reasons is that the brain depends on a steady supply of blood sugar (glucose). When we eat or drink refined sugars, they’re absorbed very quickly and spike blood sugar levels like a rollercoaster. This effect can then impact the brain and influence moods. Many people find that when they’re feeling down, they crave sweets to help boost their moods. So while sweets may seem to feel good temporarily, over the long term they can lead to worsening mood swings.
A nutrition strategy that can help reduce intake of refined sugars is to have healthier foods available—especially when it comes to snacks and desserts. Instead of reaching for sweets and sugary drinks, consider fruits, nuts, and unsweetened beverages like fruit-infused water and teas.
The Fibre Mood Connection: How fibre can help regulate your mood
Foods that are high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some specific examples include apples, berries, broccoli, carrots, beans, lentils, quinoa, oats, almonds, and chia seeds.
Fibre is an essential nutrient that is beneficial for our physical and mental health. In addition to its effects on blood sugar and digestion, fibre plays a crucial role in promoting the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria. Research has linked gut health to various aspects of mental health, including mood, stress levels, and even cognitive function.
One study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that a high-fibre diet was associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. This could be due to the beneficial effects of fibre on gut health, as well as its ability to help stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in the body.
Fatty Acids for a happy mind: The benefits of Omega 3's on your mood
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are crucial for brain health and have been shown to have significant effects on mood and cognitive function. DHA, in particular, is a structural component of brain tissue and has been linked to improved brain function, memory, and learning ability. EPA, on the other hand, is involved in the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Research suggests that a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to the development of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Several studies have found that supplementing with EPA and DHA can help alleviate symptoms of these conditions. For example, a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that participants with depression who consumed omega-3 supplements had significant improvements in their symptoms compared to those who received a placebo.
It’s important to note that the body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids on its own and they must be obtained through the diet or supplements. Good dietary sources of EPA and DHA include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, as well as algae-based supplements for vegetarians and vegans. Other sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil
Final thoughts on nutrition & Mood
So in conclusion we can see nutrition can impact mental health. I’d encourage you all to include a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, fibre, and protein.
By doing this you will be default including the super power of certain nutrients and phytochemicals found in these foods to give both your physical and mental health a boost.