Food plays a significant role in impacting our physical and mental health. It fuels both mind and body, in turn helping our bodies to grow, repair and function well. Having a balanced diet for that matter can help increase energy levels, improve heart health, help you maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce risks of diabetes and high blood pressure. Good nutrition can also affect your brain. In fact, the brain uses up to 20% of the energy derived from the food we eat- far more than any other organ. Hence, it requires a constant supply of fuel that comes from the food that you eat.
However, your food choices can affect your mental health and mood, which is sometimes called the “food-mood connection.” Recent studies have shown that several mental health conditions can be influenced by dietary factors such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Getting the right balance of nutrients can help prevent such mental health issues, as well as improve your mood and anxiety levels, increase concentration and improve sleep quality along with exercise. To achieve this, eat a diet that is nutrient-rich and well-rounded (balanced diet).
To achieve a balanced diet, it is essential that you include plenty of vegetables, a portion of protein, and complex carbohydrates. The presence of certain nutrients in food such as vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and tryptophan, appear to have an effect on emotional wellbeing. Let’s look at how important they are to your overall health.
The brain requires energy which is derived from the food that we eat. This energy comes from carbohydrates we eat along with starchy food like pasta and rice. Sources of carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy. Try to eat smaller portions, spaced throughout the day, of foods that release energy slowly, including nuts, oats, seeds, and cereals.
Protein contains amino acid (tryptophan) which helps regulate thoughts and feelings. Tryptophan is the building block for serotonin production, a brain chemical that promotes a feeling of well-being. It is found in fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, cheese, soy products, and legumes.
Vitamin D occurs naturally in food and can be released into your body through exposure to direct sunlight. With low levels of vitamin D, you are more likely to experience a low mood. Foods that are also rich in vitamin D include; fatty fish, cheese, dairy products, beef liver, orange juice, and cereals.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber which helps with digestion. They also give us a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain health. Aim to have two serves of fruits and five serves of vegetables in your meal every day.
Ensuring that you follow a healthy pattern of eating is beneficial to your overall health. The food we choose to eat impacts our health in general and mental well-being. It is therefore vital, to carefully choose what to and what not to consume.