A well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet can sustain both your body and mind. The benefits of good nutrition intake do not stop with physical aspects but also help with improved concentration, prolonged attention span, and good decision-making. They can also help you reduce stress and cope with depression symptoms.
The “food for the mood” adage has proven true. Today, more and more people consume more and more processed foods high in sugar. This reality has much to do with the rise of depression. The dangers posed by unhealthy food consumption far outweigh other health hazards.
How Does Nutrition Intake Affect Your Mind and Mood?
There is a strong connection between your digestive system and your brain. Your guts and brain are physically linked by the vagus nerve so that the two systems can send messages to each other. For example, the digestion of certain food determines what types of bacteria live in the gut, which then influences the brain regarding how emotions are regulated. The brain can also change what kinds of bacteria live in the gut by sending messages of pleasure and reward.
Gut bacteria are found to produce a range of neurochemicals for the brain to regulate emotions and mental processes. For example, serotonin, a mood stabilizer, is largely produced by gut bacteria. The reverse connection also exists—good mental health promotes good gut health.
Eating nutrient-deficient foods that have high added sugar and refined carbohydrates can stimulate the dopamine centers in your brain, boosting pleasure and reward. This makes eating bad-for-you food highly pleasurable and addictive. However, though momentarily satisfying, these ingredients may cause inflammation throughout the body and the brain—leading to mood disorders—and poor gut health—leading to poor mental health.
These two aspects reinforce each other, making stress and the consumption of processed food a vicious cycle. People tend to eat more junk food when under stress. Poor diet during this time can only make matters worse since, as you become addicted to bad food, they make you more and more unhealthy, both physically and mentally. This can cause you to crave more junk food, and so the cycle continues.
What Foods Are Good for the Brain?
Actively seeking food that is good for your body and brain couldn’t be more important. The brain and nervous system depend on good nutrition to build new cells and repair tissues. You need to eat a variety of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and minerals.
A healthy, mentally beneficial diet should include complex carbohydrates such as multigrains like quinoa and millet, and roots like beets and sweet potatoes. Lean proteins are also important in your diet, like chicken, meat, fish, eggs, soybeans, and seeds. Some of these foods also provide mood-boosting fatty acids. Olive oil and avocados have healthy fats to support your brain function.
You should also avoid processed snacks, fast foods, and sugar-filled drinks. When you feel the need for a snack between meals, choose fruits, nuts, or seeds over chips or sweets. Try to steer away from packaged snack products. Of course, this all means that you need to begin developing a healthy shopping list and stick to it. Start by finding healthy recipes and fresh—not frozen or packaged—ingredients.
How Do You Eat Well to Feel Well?
Become more aware of what, when, and how much you eat. Some people refer to this as “mindful eating.” Deliberately plan your meals to include nutrient-rich ingredients and healthy snacks that do not contain too much sugar. Some nutritionists suggest keeping a food journal to document and track your intake. Many smartphone apps serve this purpose. Journaling about how your emotions affect what you eat and vice versa can effectively improve healthy eating behaviors.
Be mindful about where and when you eat. Sitting and eating in front of the TV can cause you to overeat and consume unhealthy snacks. Make each meal and snack time as relaxed and distraction-free as possible. When your sole focus is on your food, you will be more aware of when you are full and enjoy the taste of your food more. It is also important to space meals apart and eat regularly. This can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, which may affect your mood.
Try planning meals together with a friend who already follows a good nutritional plan. Having a model to follow can help you know how to plan your own meals and snacks. Talking with someone while you eat is not only a relationship builder, but it can also help you slow down as you eat and truly enjoy your meal.
If you still struggle with eating disorders and co-occurring mental health problems, find professional nutritionists who can plan a diet intervention for you. They will monitor how your mood changes with the diet modifications. Similarly, a good diet plan is essential for people in recovery from addiction in achieving holistic healing.
Did you know that good nutrition can not only help boost your mood but also reshape how your brain functions in a healthy way? Brain science shows that the brain and nervous system depend on good nutrition to build new cells and repair tissues. For people who are recovering from the harmful influence of drugs and alcohol, good nutrition is especially healing for the brain. Adopting a holistic approach to addiction recovery, including nutritional therapy, can help with your sober journey. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists are experts in building healthy eating habits into your custom treatment plan. Many of our staff have been in recovery themselves, so we understand the challenges. Our full medical residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. Call us at (866) 906-3203 to start your journey of whole-body wellness today.