What are you having for dinner? We know that what we eat affects our bodies. But did you know your diet can also affect your mind? Studies are discovering that a healthy and nutritious diet is not only good for your body, but it can also help to improve your mental health.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – Francois de la Rochefoucauld
You’ve probably heard the saying “you are what you eat” applied to physical health, but could the same phrase be true when it comes to your mental wellbeing? According to science, the answer is yes.
Here are a few ways your diet contributes to your mental health:
1. A Healthy Diet is Essential for Brain Development
“Nutrition is the only remedy that can bring full recovery and can be used with any treatment. Remember, food is our best medicine!” – Bernard Jensen
Maintaining a healthy diet throughout your life is vital for brain development. Eating quality food allows the body to create the necessary building blocks for a healthy brain. Without those building blocks, mental development will likely be stunted.
2. Nutrients Encourage the Brain to Grow
Consistently consuming omega-3s and zinc, essential nutrients in a healthy diet, helps create connections between brain cells. These nutrients allow the brain to improve resilience and cognition.
Conversely, if you pursue a diet with excess refined sugars, it can have a negative effect on essential brain proteins. This hinders your brain’s ability to create connections and improve brain function.
3. Food Influences Your Mood
They say the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, but it is actually the way to their brain.
The brain and the gastrointestinal tract have a close relationship. Essentially, your GI tract is continually sending messages to your mind using neurotransmitters. There are billions of bacteria in your GI tract that influence these neurotransmitters.
If you fill your body with healthy food, then you create “good” bacteria in your GI tract that subsequently sends positive messages to the brain. However, if you consume unhealthy food, like sugar, it creates “bad” bacteria. This may make you feel good for a moment, but down the line, it will cause a crash that will likely have you feeling fatigued and unhappy.
4. Food Impacts Anxiety & Depression
“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.” – Adam Ant
Dr. Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, argues that a poor diet is a significant part of the depression, which the World Health Organization reports is one of the biggest causes of disability in Americans.
Research has backed up this statement. In fact, studies show that people who maintain a proper diet feel happier and more satisfied with life. Research has also shown that adapting to a Mediterranean or DASH diet can drastically help those who suffer from anxiety or depression. Some cases have even shown individuals who try these diets no longer need to take antidepressants.
5. Guilt & Eating
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Many people have eating problems, which is different than an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a medical illness whereas an eating problem is when you have a difficult relationship with the food you consume.
Feelings of guilt are just one sign of an eating problem. A continued eating problem can cause feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, and other negative feelings. By pursuing a healthy diet and letting go of guilt when you indulge in moderation will lead to more successful mental health.