Eating Your Way to Improved Mental Health

The age-old saying ‘you are what you eat’ applies to every aspect of your well-being. According to Harvard Medical School, a healthy diet is as important to your mental health as it is your physical health. In fact, it has been found that there is a very distinct link between a poor diet and the prevalence of mental health concerns. Nutrient deficiencies can also exacerbate existing issues by negatively affecting essential hormone levels in the body. It is therefore of the utmost importance that nutrient-dense food and beverages are consumed as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Food Can Affect Your Mental Well-Being in Numerous Ways

Our brains rely on a large variety of nutrients to remain healthy and function at an optimal level. When our diets are not rich in essential nutrients, our mental well-being can be affected in numerous ways.  Low blood sugar as a result of skipped meals can result in severe irritability and fatigue while eating an excess of sugary food can both decrease energy levels and result in pesky brain fog. If your diet is devoid of healthy proteins your body may not be able to produce enough of the essential neurotransmitters required to relay information between cells. This can, in turn, affect your dopamine and serotonin levels, leaving you feeling overly aggressive or increasingly depressed. If for some reason, your diet lacks vital nutrients despite your best efforts to eat healthily, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality nutritional supplement.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Good Gut Health

The food you eat can also affect your mental health in a more indirect way – through the gut-brain connection. This connection can link mental health concerns such as anxiety and stress to gastrointestinal problems and vice versa. One way to ensure that your gut remains healthy is to adhere to strict food hygiene protocol. Avoid consuming any expired food products and steer clear of anything that has not been cooked properly, especially chicken and seafood. Also, stay away from any food that has been dropped on the floor as it may have been exposed to a range of nasty bacteria. While many of us have undoubtedly sworn by ‘The Five Second Rule‘ at some point in our lives, scientists have found that bacteria transfers occur regardless of how long the food is in contact with the floor.

Eat All the Colors of the Rainbow

A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins has been linked to improved mental well-being. Unfortunately, the CDC has found that only one in ten American adults consume sufficient amounts of fresh produce.  In order to not only remain physically healthy but mentally fit as well, aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day in all colors of the rainbow.  This will provide your body with not only complex carbs but a lot of vitamins and antioxidants as well that can help combat anxiety and depression.  Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and rye can boost serotonin production tremendously which can leave you feeling happier. Probiotic foods have also been found to be very beneficial to mental health according to a study published in Psychiatry Research. Next time you feel anxious consider indulging in probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.

The food you consume on a daily basis can affect your mental health and overall well-being in numerous ways. While a healthy diet may not be enough to ward off mental health concerns completely, it can definitely go a long way in reducing your risk and decreasing the severity of pre-existing conditions.

By: Issy Lovett

After an initial career spent as a sexual health nurse, Issy turned to writing to make a living and now pens articles on topics relating to sexual health and the anxieties it can create. She believes strongly in talking therapies as a way to help overcome issues, after experiencing her own struggles with mental health. Issy now lives with her girlfriend and their pet dog Barney.