We're taught from an early age that eating healthy helps us feel and look our best. What we aren't frequently taught is that excellent eating has a huge impact on our mental health as well.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet can improve our ability to think clearly & feel more awake. It also helps with focus and attention span.
An inadequate diet, on the other hand, can cause weariness, decreased decision-making, and slow reaction time. In fact, poor nutrition can increase, and even cause, stress and melancholy.
Aim to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as meals high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, to improve your mental health. Dark green leafy veggies, in particular, are brain-protective. Nuts, seeds, and legumes, like beans and lentils, are also fantastic brain meals.
What is the relationship between Food and Mood?
Food satisfies both the body and the intellect. We eat nutritious foods in order for our bodies to grow, repair, and function properly. Our brain requires nutritional nutrients as well. In reality, it's extremely hungry – the brain consumes approximately 20% of our overall daily energy requirements.
When we eat healthy foods, we provide our bodies (and brains) with the building blocks they require to function optimally. All nutrients, from minerals and vitamins to healthy fats and fibre, play a role in brain health and performance.
Following healthy eating, a pattern has been linked to improved stress management, better sleep quality, higher focus, and overall mental well-being. Our eating choices have an impact on both our physical and mental health.
Foods to Eat to Improve Your Mood
There is no such thing as a superfood for mental health. It's all about balance, variety, and consuming foods from all five dietary categories.
Fruits and vegetables include fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy intestinal environment. Fibre is a favourite food of the beneficial bacteria in our gut, which promote our overall health in a variety of ways.
Fruits and vegetables also provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote brain function. Aim for two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables every day.
Wholegrains are another fantastic source of fibre for our good gut bacteria, as well as healthy lipids for brain function and slow carbs for a consistent supply of brain fuel.
Protein included in lean meats, fish, and eggs serves as a building block for various brain chemicals that might affect our mood.
Fish, particularly fatty fish, as well as nuts, seeds, and legumes, are high in the beneficial fats and vitamins that promote excellent mental health and are believed to guard against dementia and depression.
Dairy foods, such as yoghurt, contain living good bacteria (called probiotics) that can improve our gut health, which in turn influences our mood and also mental health.
Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, helps to prevent dehydration, which is a major cause of headaches, weariness, and 'brain fog,' which can impair our ability to concentrate. However, avoid soothing your thirst with sugary liquids, such as soft drinks.
It's important to remember that the causes of mental illness are many and varied, and they will often be present and persist independently of nutrition and diet. Thus, the increased understanding of potential connections between food and mental wellbeing should never be used to support automatic assumptions, or stigmatisation, about an individual’s dietary choices and mental health. Indeed, such stigmatisation could be itself be a casual pathway to increasing the risk of poorer mental health.
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