Many people say when you eat well, you feel well. While your body is a machine that must be replenished with nutrients regularly, it can often be challenging to eat the healthiest foods when you're in a hurry, or on-the-go. In the long run, this can be detrimental to your mental and emotional health. The following will explain what you can do to have a healthier mind now and in the future.
The Connection Between Diet and Mental Health
What's the big deal, anyway? Are food and brain power really connected that closely? Well, as recent studies have found, the answer is a resounding yes. Oxidative Stress and serotonin are two variables that can affect your diet and mental health.
Oxidative stress (aka "free radicals") is the waste produced when the body uses oxygen. This can damage cells, so it's important to eat food containing antioxidants that counteract that damage. Antioxidants protect your brain from oxidative stress that could potentially penetrate your brain tissue and cause damage. When you don't eat foods that contain antioxidants, you're leaving your brain vulnerable to these free radicals.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, and moods as well as increases pain threshold. About 95 percent of serotonin is in your gastrointestinal tract. This means the food that you eat and digest eventually interact with the serotonin in your gastrointestinal tract and send signals to your brain, therefore guiding your emotional and mental stability. Consuming foods high in vitamins and minerals is imperative so these can be transmitted to your brain and body.
What Should I Eat?
If you put premium fuel in your car, you're going to get the best performance. It's the same way with your brain. Food is fuel, so treating your body to the best fuel is going to produce the best cognitive function. Both the Mediterranean and the traditional Japanese diets have proven to be particularly beneficial.
- The Mediterranean diet consists of eating nutrient-rich foods such as fish, fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
- The traditional Japanese diet consists of fish, tofu, rice, vegetables, and fruit.
These diets have shown to be excellent sources of protein containing essential vitamins and minerals. Vegetables are loaded with fiber and other vitamins and minerals that are easily digestible. Fruit contains vitamins and naturally occurring sugars that are healthier than the processed sugars found in snack foods.
Remember oxidative stress and antioxidants? Well, here is a list of foods that are high in antioxidants that will benefit your overall health:
- Goji berries
- Dark chocolate
- Kidney beans
In addition to being thoughtful about your diet, also be thoughtful about your medications with lengthy side effects. If your doctor prescribes specific medication, be sure to carefully follow the instructions. Sometimes, certain medications can cause emotional and physical imbalances that can increase the likelihood of falls or other accidents.
Probiotics have shown to abate symptoms of anxiety, reduce stress, and improve mental outlook.
Mental Health Activities
Diet is important, but don't rule out a healthy lifestyle in general. Here are a few things that will stimulate your creativity and improve your well-being:
- Ceramic molding
- Practicing yoga or Tai Chi
- Playing tennis or pickleball