Mental Health and Healthy Food- Your Brain on Food – from a Psychotherapist
As Hippocrates once said, “let thy food be thy medicine.” These words of wisdom hold the same importance today as it did in the past. Becoming the best version of oneself not only includes addressing emotions and trauma, but it also involves nourishing our bodies efficiently. It is common to focus on diet to reach weight goals. However, many are unaware of just how much diet impacts mental wellness.
There’s no question as to how much work the brain does on a daily basis. Our brain requires daily nutrients plus oxygen to carry out its responsibilities successfully. This makes having a nourishing diet crucial for its functioning. Currently, research shows that close to forty-six percent (46%) of American adults have poor diets. A large part of the American diet includes refined sugars, which can cause negative effects on the brain such as:
- Mood fluctuations (crashes)
- Lack of focus
- Increase in stress level
- Memory concerns
Sugars contribute to an increase in dopamine levels within the brain, which makes us want it even more! Refined sugar, along with many processed foods, also increase inflammation within the body, which is linked to the pathogenesis of mental illness. This vicious cycle ultimately makes it more difficult to change the unhelpful eating habits. The great thing is that it is never too late to make a change for the better.
Diets that have been deemed to be much healthier for the body and mind are similar to Mediterranean and Japanese diets that include a high content of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and grains, with less dairy and processed meats present. Typically, these foods play a role in the survival of neurons and neurogenesis. Healthier options to add to your daily diet that improve cognitive functions, memory loss prevention, protect the brain, supports brain blood flow and helps reduce the likelihood of common medical conditions (blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease) include vitamins such as:
- Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine); assists with the communication between nerves and the brain (sunflower seeds)
- Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9); preservation of brain health and boosts mood (leafy vegetables, fresh squeezed orange juice)
- Omega-3 fatty acid; promotes brain health, reduces inflammation, may prevent neuropsychiatric or neurodegenerative disorders
- Coenzyme Q-10; has antioxidant that protects the brain (cruciferous vegetables and fatty fish)
Proactively incorporating these healthier options into daily consumption is a preventative measure. By eating to live, the likelihood of one’s ability to better manage stressful life events increases, allowing better management of overall wellness.
Many can attest to enjoying food for the sweet or savory flavors that bring a comforting feeling. Though tasty, these foods can do more harm than good. Being mindful of the saying everything in moderation just may be the key to stronger, longer lasting brain power and an overall healthier life. More information about these topics can be found within the links listed below.
The link between food and mental health (apa.org)