More and more evidence in medical research points to the important role of nutrition in preventing and managing mental health problems. For example, the intake of micronutrients is found to help alleviate mood swings and depression. Nutrients affect mental health as they encourage normal brain function by controlling neuroinflammation caused by overwork or stress factors.
Your Brain Needs Good Nutrients
The human brain is a perpetually active organ that not only takes care of thoughts and movements during the day but also processes memory while one is asleep. This means that your brain needs a constant supply of fuel which comes from the food you eat. The nutritional value of the food you eat makes a world of difference for your brain to function. When you intake nutrients that support good brain function, your brain can give you feedback in the form of a good mood. If you eat junky food with little nutritional value, your brain can give negative feedback in the form of a poor mood.
Good nutrients from high-quality foods are like premium fuel for the brain. They contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other micronutrients that not only nourish the brain but protect it from oxidative stress. The latter can be understood as “waste” produced when the body uses oxygen.
Low-Quality Diet Contributes to Brain Malfunction
Imagine your body is like an expensive car. If you add low-quality fuel, that will certainly have negative effects on how the machine functions. Even worse, when such low-quality fuel gets into the system of the car, its toxic or bad elements will linger long after, causing damage to the vehicle. The same thing can happen to your brain if you consume a poor-quality diet like one that has a high amount of refined sugars, for example.
Bad foods can worsen your brain’s regulation of insulin as well as cause inflammation and more oxidative stress. When these accumulate in the body, you can develop mood disorders. Many medical studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and brain malfunction, which leads to depression.
Your Food Affects Your Mood
The foods you eat can also affect your emotional health. Take the body’s serotonin level for example. The vast majority of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which has over a hundred million neurons. While the main function of your digestive system is to break down food, it also connects the food you eat with neurotransmitters in your body, which then affect your mood. This is why the gastrointestinal tract is sometimes called the “second brain.”
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can be influenced by the “good” bacteria that make up your microbiome. These “good” bacteria help quench inflammation and activate neural pathways between the gut and the brain. Unfortunately, modern Western food that has been highly processed is often deficient in nutritional benefits. As a result, some people take supplements to make up for the lack of “good” bacteria.
When you have a healthy dietary habit of sticking to nutritious, unprocessed, low-sugar foods, you are setting yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations. Your focus and concentration may improve. Over the long term, your risk of stroke and dementia will also decrease.
Foods You Should Not Miss in Everyday Diet
It is never too late to examine your plate and replan your dietary intake. Once you have an informed awareness of what bad foods do to your brain and your body, you should know what foods to avoid. Next, you want to replenish the body with a variety of good food choices that promise to provide fiber, antioxidants, folate, vitamins, and micronutrients. More specifically, these food items may include fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, leafy greens, berries, turmeric, mushrooms, nuts, unprocessed meat products, etc.
You should consciously incorporate a “good-for-your-mood” philosophy into building a healthy diet. When you crave a bag of chips, apply this mentality and choose nuts instead. Similarly, hydration and not skipping meals are also important. You should be mindful of your caffeine intake, and choose drinks like green or black tea if you need a source of caffeine instead of sugary drinks like soda or energy drinks.
Your change in diet does not need to happen overnight. You can make a plan to drop one unhealthy food item and add one healthy food weekly. It may take weeks or even months to notice the mood-boosting effects of a more healthy diet, but they will come. The main takeaway here is to be more aware of the nutritional value of the foods entering your mouth. Over time, healthy eating along with regular exercise and mindfulness can help you overcome mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Did you know that nutrition plays a huge role in improving your mental health and building your body’s resilience during recovery? In order for the body and the mind to heal, you should reduce the intake of unhealthy food and commit to a healthy and balanced diet. It is always a wise choice to work with health professionals who specialize in this area. If you want to work with a recovery-supportive nutritionist, you can find one at Laguna Shores Recovery. Here, our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists know how to coach you in all areas of life through recovery. As believers in holistic recovery, we include proper nutrition into every recovery plan. Our complete medical and residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Call us today at (866) 906-3203 so we can help you start a new journey toward healing.