The Link Between Nutrition & Mental Health
Talking about the psychological, physiological, and scientific aspects of food and nutrition, can quickly become overwhelming, and even begin distorting our relationship with food.
However, a healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert.
It can also improve concentration and attention span, helping balance our stress levels and depressive thoughts.
The brain and the gut are connected, which is one of the reasons nutrition cannot be left out of the conversation around mental health.
When we’re feeling stressed or depressed, it’s often processed foods we reach for in search of a quick pick-me-up.
As a result, people tend to either eat too much or too little when depressed or under stress.
Therefore, many people reach for "comfort foods" during times of stress.
Starchy or sweet dishes taste good and may feel emotionally satisfying — in the short term.
That’s because they elevate your blood sugar and trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain that addictive drugs do.
But later, processing those carbohydrate-heavy foods can cause you to feel an unpleasant crash.
On the other hand, healthy eating helps keep your blood sugar stable — which can help maintain your mood throughout the day.
Many of your body’s activities are controlled by natural chemicals called neurotransmitters.
These neurotransmitters carry signals between nerves and other cells to help manage your heartbeat, breathing, emotions, concentration levels, and more.
By eating certain foods, you can help stimulate the production of some neurotransmitters.
There are four well-known neurotransmitters...
Dopamine: Helps activate your sense of pleasure. It also increases alertness, concentration, and reaction time.
Serotonin: Helps reduce feelings of pain, promotes calmness and serenity, and relieve anxiety and depression.
Endorphins: Helps reduce feelings of pain, promotes calmness, and relieves anxiety/depression.
Oxytocin: Helps you feel relaxed, socially connected, and loved.
Overall, moderation is one of the most important keys when it comes to nutrition impacting your mental health.
As long as you're conscious of a food's nutritional value and the benefits of moderation, you can unlock the benefits of mindful eating.