Does The Food We Eat Really Affect Our Mental Well-being?
It is always somewhat surprising to me when people seem shocked when I tell them that the food we eat really can have an impact on our mental well-being. Most people understand that our diet can affect our physical health, but for some reason, many find it hard to believe that their diet could also be having an effect on their mood.
The brain is a physical organ and despite only representing 2% of total body weight, on a typical day, it accounts for 20% of a body’s daily energy use. Thinking really does burn calories. However, we are not only concerned about the amount of energy the brain uses, which it gets from the food we eat, but the nutrients it needs to perform certain functions. 1kg of sweets could provide the brain with more than enough energy to function, but they would not provide any of the essential micro and macronutrients needed to promote mental well-being.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish like mackerel, sardines anchovies and salmon. Studies have shown that consuming foods containing omega-3 at least twice a week can prevent and slow down the progress of many mental health disorders. For those who are following a plant-based diet, walnuts and flaxseed oil are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Whole grains are a rich source of B vitamins that are essential for brain health. Vitamin B5, for instance, is needed to manufacture acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in memory function. Meanwhile, vitamin B6 is involved in the production of serotonin. Vitamin B12 is also essential for neurotransmitter production. Good foods to eat to boost your intake of B complex vitamins include brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and seeded brown bread.
It is thought that a folate deficiency can impair serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine metabolization. More research is needed to investigate the role of the B vitamin in depression. Some examples of folate-rich vegetables are spinach, avocado, broccoli, artichokes and okra.
While caffeine can have a lot of negative side effects if it is not consumed in moderation, it is known for its performance and mood-boosting properties. Natural sources of caffeine include coffee and black tea – although tea has a lower caffeine content than coffee.
The bottom line is that making small improvements to your diet to boost your physical health can have the added bonus of also improving your mental health. More clinical trails are needed to show exactly which foods are best at treating and preventing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and OCD.
Be sure to carry out further research on the web to find out what the best mood-boosting foods to eat are. If you are struggling to maintain a healthy diet at the moment, it could also be worth taking a daily multivitamin supplement to ensure your body is getting all the essential vitamins it needs to function optimally. Furthermore, you might want to check out other food supplements, like cod liver oil supplements and omega-3-6-9 flaxseed oil supplements.