The kind of foods you eat not only affects UR body but your brain too. When UR diet is shaped there will be improvement in UR mental health and also a reduced risk of mental disorders. We have a tendency to overcomplicate health and diet. However, it’s the simple changes and the simple habits that make up health. Fad diets don’t work, over exercising doesn’t work and neither do crash diets work. It’s the minor everyday changes and the habits we cultivate that are important for our health. Let’s explore the relationship between food and our mental well-being.
There are many ways to assess our physical health – we can run multiple blood checks, we can get our body fat percentage checked, check our body weight and so on to see if we are physically healthy. To check our financial well-being we check our bank balance and network. Our social well-being is measured by the kind of friends and family we are surrounded with. But probably the hardest thing to measure is our mental and emotional health.
The role of the brain
Our brain is one of the most powerful organs, which is always on (24×7). It works without a break. It is on when we are breathing, controls our thoughts, our daily activities etc. It’s even on when we are asleep. So imagine the kind of energy our brain requires to function. This energy comes from the food (the fuel) we give our body. The food we eat not just determines our physical health but also our mental and social well-being.
Think of UR body like a kind of expensive machine – how well and efficiently it will function, depends on the kind of fuel you will feed it. If you feed UR body with wholefoods, fresh vegetables and fruits full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, you will protect UR body of free radical damage and oxidative stress. Doing this will give you good physical and mental health.
However, if you feed UR body with highly processed foods, ready to eat foods which are full of preservatives and trans fats – it will not only hamper your body’s response to insulin, but will also create inflammation and oxidative stress, all of which will not just affect your physical health but also lead to mood disorders, your ability to cope with anxiety, stress and also depression.
The brain-gut connection
Our belly and brain are connected to each other by multiple pathways – one of these is via the vagus nerve which is one of the largest nerves of our body that connects the brain to the abdomen and sends signals in both directions. The second pathway is through neurotransmitters called serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). These are also known as the ‘happy hormones’. These neurotransmitters regulate our moods, appetite and our sleep cycles. They also determine our response to stress, fear and anxiety.
It may be quite surprising to know but 70-80 percent of these neurotransmitters are produced in our digestive tract. These neurons line the nerves of our digestive system and don’t just help to digest our food but also affect our moods as well. So improving UR moods and mental health starts at the gut level.
The elimination diet
You have to improve UR diet and what you eat. Start by paying attention to the foods that work for you and which don’t work for you. If UR suffering with any stomach related issues or mental issues, a good way to start making a difference is through an elimination diet – remove all processed and junk foods from UR diet and do a diet cleanse. Adopt a diet that consists of whole fresh foods minus the foods that are laden with preservatives or trans fats.
Eat the foods that are freshly prepared in your kitchen. You can then gradually reintroduce certain foods to gauge your response to the foods. You will instinctively know which foods have worked for you and which foods aggravate you. Changing your diet will not just change UR physical health. It will also bring about positive changes in UR mental health.
List of foods that can help to improve UR mental health:
Whole Grains: rice, oats, beans, barley etc.
Fatty fish: sardines, salmon, mackerel etc.
Lean protein: chicken, turkey, fish, beans and eggs.
Leafy greens: spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens and broccoli.
Fermented foods: yoghurt that has active cultures, kimchi, kefir and pickled vegetables.