We all are well-aware of the nutritional value of food intake, but have we ever thought about how eating is affecting our mental wellbeing?
You might have heard the phrase, ‘We become what we eat’, and it is 100% true. Eating healthy or unhealthy food affect our overall well-being. From the body to the brain, everything works and functions differently when we make changes in diet. A healthy diet plan full of nutrients does not only help in shaping body but it positively affects the brain’s activities. Nutritional Psychiatry is a new concept which got the attention of medical health caregivers some five years ago.
What is Nutritional Psychiatry?
It explains the link between food and mood of a person. Although a solid data is yet to be worked on to prove this link many nutritionists believe that food has an impact on a person’s mental health.
Drew Ramsay who is an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University said that Diet is the most powerful intervention we have. We can help people by shaping their diets which eventually can improve their mental health and reduce the risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
Dealing with mental health is not just the issue of adults anymore; children are developing mental disorders on an alarming rate.
Recent studies have shown a relationship with low quality-diet or unhealthy food intake with overall mental well-being. It is also suggested that 80% teens experience depression or are prone to have depression who consume unhealthy food.
Also, a few studies show that supplements like omega-3-fatty acids are proved to be helping in maintaining a balanced mood of a person. Though consistent data is lacking but experts have said that many pieces of research and studies have been conducted and published across the world that show a link between food quality or healthy eating habits and common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Following a healthy and full of nutrients diet can be protective and healthy for mental health. Healthy food is as critical for mental health as it is for physical health. Unhealthy or food that is lacking nutrients can be a risk factor for depression and anxiety.
Studies are also showing an area of interest which focuses on the possible role of food allergies may play in developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Again no solid data has been provided to show it, however, studies are underway to determine the connection between eating habits and mental health.
No matter what comes out as results of these undergoing studies, one should not consider food as replacement of medication or treatments regarding mental health. Expert says that diet can be made part of the plan while treating any mental illness but can’t be used as a substitute for medicines.
Here is how diet affects your overall well-being, mental health inclusive.
Whatever we eat, have an impact on our whole body; healthy or unhealthy diet can affect how our immune system works, how our genes function and how our brain responds to stress rooting from routine life activities.
1. Diet is crucial for brain development:
What we eat or food choices we make nourishes us, the food that goes down to our stomach builds protein-blocks, produces enzymes, develops and strengthens the brain tissues and neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters send information and messages to different parts of the body. Brain proteins are highly affected by a diet which high in saturated fats and refined sugars. Such meals or foods can cause a potential threat to brain proteins.
2. The diet helps the brain to grow:
Yes, you read it right, consuming a healthy diet and balanced calories are linked to brain proteins. Foods rich in nutrients help these brain proteins to enhance the connection between brain cells. Omega-3s and Zinc are considered to be raising the levels of brain proteins.
3. Healthy diet fills the gut with healthy bacteria:
Do you know that trillions of good and healthy bacteria live in the gut? They function as security guards for the body as they defend the body from bad germs and keep the immune system strong. They further help in easing the inflammation in the body and help the brain in powering B-vitamins which implies that these gut bacteria is very important for us.
Food rich in nutrients and probiotics provide a healthy gut environment and affect the mood of a person. As healthy food affects gut bacteria positively, similarly unhealthy food such as refined sugar and high fats meals negatively affect gut health. High-sugar diets can cause schizophrenia and can worsen the symptoms of mental illness.
Apart from these factors, there are certain foods and diets which can be the cause of mental disorders or they may worsen the symptoms.
Certain nutrients are very helpful in increasing mental health such as:
It is reported that people who have a low level of B12 or B-vitamins have brain inflammation. What does this mean? This means that these brain inflammations can cause someone to experience depression and dementia. These brain inflammations can also affect moods.
Iron-deficiency or anaemia is said to be linked to depression. Low level of iron in blood has a very negative impact on the overall wellbeing of a person.
These are healthy fatty acids are very important to be part of the routine intake. These fatty acids are proved to be showing a positive relationship with improved thinking, memory and a lighter mood.
Zinc is another very important nutrient that plays a vital role in response to stress. Again the low level of zinc can be a possible cause of depression. So make sure to have foods that are rich in zinc such as oysters, etc.
Fermented food items such as yogurt are a rich source of good gut bacteria due to living culture presence; this can help in reducing anxiety and stress. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are a great source of omega-3-fatty acids, B12, zinc and other healthy brain boosters which improve the brain’s ability to function.
Remember, food or a healthy diet can be a part of the treatment plan while dealing with a person with mental illness but it can never replace medication. Medications and treatments will work better if they are combined with the brain-healthy diet of nutrient-rich foods.