How eating healthily can improve your mental health

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Turns out, Roman poet Juvenal was really onto something with the expression “menssana in corporesano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body. If someone asked you what leads to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, chances are your first instinct wouldn’t be to say “your diet.” It’s well known that the food we eat influences our physical health in many ways, but its connection to our mental wellness had long been neglected, and is to this day not fully explored by psychologists. Still, we can now say with certainty that the food we eat does impact our mood and the well-being of our brain – leading to the creation of a new approach to mental health known as nutritional psychology.

You will find listed below a few ways your diet can improve your mental wellbeing:

  1. The influence of probiotics reaches far beyond your gut. Depression and other mental health issues can often be traced to brain inflammation. Probiotics, also known as “good” bacteria, help reduce inflammation within your body, including the brain. They can be found in foods containing active cultures, such as some yogurts and kefir, and other fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickled vegetables.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids stimulate the production of hormones that cause a state of well-being. This can reduce the effects of depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia and ADHD. These fatty acids also have other benefits, such as promoting brain development, learning and memory. They are primarily found in wild fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines.
  3. Glucose is the brain’s foremost source of energy. Sugary foods can boost your happiness with temporary “highs”, but those are short-lived and inevitably leave you in a worse mood than before. By contrast, whole grains, wild rice, beans and soy are slower, steadier sources of glucose, improving your mood over a longer period of time. These complex carbs also stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to well-being and happiness.
  4. Lean protein keeps you happy. Lean protein, found in chicken, eggs and turkey, also stimulates the production of serotonin, along with complex carbs, as described above.
  5. A healthy level of folic acid prevents depression. Folic acid, also known as folacin (a B-vitamin), can be found predominantly in leafy greens like spinach, turnips and broccoli.
  6. Vitamin D helps stave off the symptoms of depression and schizophrenia. It is found in many healthy foods, once again including fatty fish, as well as milk and yogurt.

Unfortunately, many people nowadays subsist on a diet consisting largely of processed foods and lacking in these healthy nutrients, leading to a spike in mental health issues. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or another mental disorder, a local Brossard psychologist could point out the improvements you can make to your diet in order to help you regain control of your life.

Ellen Cone