Growing up I always had good nourishing food. My mother is a great cook and having meals cooked from scratch every night is something, with hindsight, I can see I took for granted however, I knew no different. I was never exposed to bad food nor the negative effects that came with it.
It wasn’t until recently I really started to think about how your food doesn’t just affect your waistline but your mood and mental health too. I mean why wouldn’t it? Your food fuels your entire body, right?
With a recent increase in mental health awareness there has been a rapid growth in research linking the role of nutrition to better mental health. In particular, Mark Haub, a Professor of Nutrition at Kansas University speaks of the body of research that has emerged in the last decade linking healthy diet with the treatment and prevention of the mental health illness, depression. How does that work?
The process of digestion begins with sights, sounds, smells and even the thought of food. The brain responds to these senses by signaling the release of digestive juices in our saliva and stomach which is a brain to gut signal. Now, findings show that our gut signals to our brain more often than in reverse! In short, foods effect on mood and mental health is based on this: Dietary changes can bring about changes in our brain structure (chemically and physiologically).
Personally, I find it pretty crazy that there isn’t more public knowledge surrounding this subject and nourishing yourself to health when there is literally scientific evidence backing it, anyone else with me here?! There are people out there battling mental health issues who have no idea their diet could be hindering their recovery. A carefully prepared meal plan can help as part of an overall treatment plan.
So, what do we need in our healthy diet for good mood and mental health?
- Protein: Adding protein to your meals can help slow the absorption of carbohydrates in your blood and increase the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which can improve your mood and energy for hours after eating. Source protein from eating lean meats, eggs, milk, cheese, beans
- Vitamins D, B12 and folate: Known to relive mood disorders and ease depression. Source these from fatty fish, meat, fortified nutritional yeast, leafy greens and broccoli.
- Fiber: Foods like complex carbohydrates, that contain soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and increase serotonin, the “feel good” chemical, both of which decrease mood swings. Source fibre from grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
All in all, if you are battling mental health issues or are looking for a pick me up perhaps, its time to look at what’s in your fridge and what you put in your shopping trolley? Your body might just thank you for it. Isn’t that something to smile about?
“The food you eat can be either the safest, most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Ann Wigmore.