Nutrition and Your Mental Health

Your brain is a machine that’s running 24/7, and it depends on fuel; just like a car, high-quality fuel is better for the engine. Because the brain is so hard-working, it’s highly metabolic, and its function is based on the types of food you eat.

The emerging field of nutritional psychiatry has revealed that the quality of our food contributes to the state of our mental health. Much in the way food affects cardiovascular and intestinal health, it also affects mental health.

Food Fuels Your Brain

Your brain uses the protein, vitamins and other nutrients you consume to form the building blocks of its neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers; they play an important role in your motivation, energy and mood.

Serotonin, for example, is one of the brain’s major neurotransmitters. One of serotonin’s many functions is to regulate your mood, and 90% of it is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. This is just one example of how the function of your brain is highly influenced by the types of food you eat.

The Best Food for Your Mental Health

Studies show that diets rich in plant foods can reduce the risk of depression. In 2014, researchers at the University of Patras conducted a study that showed the Mediterranean diet, a diet that encourages daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats and completely excludes processed foods, reduces the risk of depression.

  • B Vitamins

Salmon, leafy greens, legumes, yogurt and sunflower seeds are among some of the foods that are high in vitamin B.

  • Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in them, and they effect the transmission of dopamine and serotonin, which help to stabilize moods. Omega-3 foods include salmon, walnuts, soybeans and chia seeds.

  • Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics are another essential source of nutrients for your body. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are beneficial for your health and your digestive system in particular. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that feeds your good gut bacteria. Gut bacteria works as a defense layer for your immune system, preventing the flow of bad toxins that can enter the blood.

Fermented foods are a good source for probiotics. Foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh are all fermented foods that can help boost the body’s own natural bacteria. Prebiotic foods include foods such as asparagus, bananas, onion, garlic, apples and oats.

There’s a wide variety of nutritious foods that are beneficial for your body and mind. Use this list as a guide to start improving your nutrition for the benefit of your mental health.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and need guidance and support, a licensed professional can help. Contact my office today so we can set up a time to talk.