Month: September 2022

Diet And Mental Health Work Together

You Are What You Eat: How Diet And Mental Health Work Together

You’ve probably heard that eating chocolate makes you feel better. This isn’t just an allusion to its sweetness—there’s science behind it. Researchers from UCalgary and AHS found the motivation to eat chocolate is caused by its psychoactive ingredients, such as flavonoids or phenylethylamine, which are believed to improve inflammatory profiles and help regulate people’s moods.

Does this sound surprising? The battle to recognize mental health awareness has been going on for years. Today, however, it’s widely recognized that our physical well-being affects how we think, feel, and act. This means that our diet, a crucial component to our bodies and everyday living, can directly and indirectly impact our mental health as well.

Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between the two.

Negative cycle of unhealthy food choices

When stressed, we tend to rely on comfort meals that are sugary, fatty, or salty. These foods immediately trigger serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in our brain.

However, this is temporary. Psychiatrist James Gordon says unhealthy diets actually cause severe drops in these neurotransmitters, while significantly increasing cortisol or the primary stress hormone in our bodies over the long run. This creates a cycle of poor mental health, that many in the world are unfortunately susceptible to, and a reliance on temporary solutions like sugary foods.

Proactive care of our mental health

Taking the step to provide our bodies with good quality food is the key to protecting the brain from further damage like oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals that can damage cells, affecting various control centres in the brain such as the amygdala. This can impair the brain’s capacity to regulate one’s hormones, leaving one vulnerable to mood disorders.

Focusing our meals around balanced diets that are inclusive of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is crucial. For those new to mindful food consumption, consulting with experts may be a big help. A guide to how WeightWatchers’ weight loss plans work notes that they get guidance from licensed nutritionists which helps many beginners to nutrition stay on track. This also encourages them to feel more satisfied with their newfangled healthy habits.

Proper sleep and hydration comes naturally with a healthy diet. Researchers from Toronto explain that our diets or rhythms of feeding behaviour send feedback to the peripheral molecular clocks of our body. When our eating pattern is stable, the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis or increase metabolism stabilizes as well.

Hence, our ability to maintain a work-life balance while keeping our bodies fit and energetic increases with every consistently healthy meal. Committing to a nutritious diet will start a positive cycle of better mental health.

Best diets for good mental health

Every individual’s body and experience is different and we all have unique needs. For example, we’ve discussed in Anxiety 101 how anxiety attacks can be triggered by even the smallest inconveniences and dietary changes. While eating vegetables and fruits is often encouraged for their high nutritional value, people with anxiety may need to more strictly watch their intake due their high glycemic indexes.

That’s why many opt to tailor diets to their lifestyles. As a rule of thumb, avoid processed foods that increase inflammation in the body and disturb the normal gut microbiome because of the lack of fibre. Instead, stick to highly nutritious ingredients such as whole and organic foods, and regularly consult your healthcare provider.

A healthy diet means a healthier mentality. Lucky for us, that means that we’re capable of exerting a degree of control over our mental wellness. Start making the right food choices today and live not just longer, but happier lives as well.