The last couple weeks I’ve written about how proper nutrition benefits your body and how poor nutrition hurts your body. But I haven’t mentioned much about the affect nutrition has on your mental health.
Today, mental health is more of a concern than ever. Turn on the news and you’ll see journalists covering stories of shootings and murders and analyzing how someone could do such a thing. In the light of these tragedies, mental health is finally receiving the attention it deserves.
These events have people like you and me thinking about our own mental states. There’s a desire to get to the root of our problems and find ways to improve our own mental health issues like anxiety and depression. One of the easier ways involves improving your nutrition.
Recent studies suggest that a healthy diet produces a healthy mind. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the types of foods we eat can have an influence on our brain functioning and ultimately, our mood.
So you’re probably wondering how the cheeseburger you ate for lunch is going to affect your mood. Here’s the science behind it: our “feel-good” neurotransmitter is serotonin. Serotonin functions in many ways including regulating sleep and appetite, mediating moods, and inhibiting pain. 95% of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract which also happens to be lined with neurons that interact with serotonin causing that “feel-good” feeling. The amount of serotonin produced and absorbed is highly dependent on the kinds of foods we eat.
Our moods are also greatly affected by the amount of nutrients our body absorbs. Processed foods contain “bad” bacteria that prevent our bodies from absorbing those necessary nutrients, while unprocessed foods contain “good” bacteria that enable nutrient absorption and promote mental wellness.
Foods high in “good” bacteria include: yogurt, cultured vegetables (sauerkraut and kimchi), apple cider vinegar, dark chocolate, green olives, gherkin pickles, raw cheese, and sourdough bread.
Another way to up your “good” bacteria intake is to add probiotics to your daily routine. Probiotics are supplements that contain live bacteria and yeasts that promote gut health. People who take probiotics have reported lower anxiety levels, lower stress levels, and improved mental outlook (Harvard Health Publishing).
Ultimately, these foods aren’t going to improve your mood immediately. Like most things, they take time to work. If you change your diet, over time you will notice a difference in your mood and overall health. Also, pay attention to how different foods make you feel. Some people find that diets without grains or dairy improve their mood. Everyone is different so it’s important to try new things to find what works for you.
Don’t forget to register for our FREE “Fight Back with Food” workshop where you will learn more helpful tips to live a healthier, happier life! Registration is open until March 23rd. To register for this workshop, call the office at 304-265-1288 or visit our website at www.GTCHDWV.org. We look forward to hearing from you!