Nutrition and Your Mental Health

Burgers and milkshakes are delicious, but the after-effects are not as enjoyable. We want our bodies and minds to feel the best they can, right? Many people don’t realize that nutrition is directly related to our physical well-being and our mental well-being. The types of food people ingest play a major role in our mental health’s state and stability.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems make us feel drained and exhausted. When we experience immense tiredness and stress, it is hard to decide to cook a healthy meal. The last thing we want to do is crawl out of our warm bed to chop vegetables and wash dishes. Our motivation is at a low, and our stomach is craving something quick and easy. The fact of the matter is that our body craves healthy food. Comfort foods that are high in fat might bring us a rush of happiness while eating, but afterward, we feel slow and sluggish. The nutrients that our bodies need, mentally and physically, are found in healthy choices. Below, we will dive into the nutrient deficiencies that occur with improper nutrition and how to combat these deficiencies. We will discuss the dietary changes that are essential for the body and the mind. Finally, we will address the right way to feed the gut, and in turn, the brain.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Individuals with mental illnesses are often deficient in many nutrients, especially essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. In most cases, people with nutrient deficiencies can purchase supplements or a daily multivitamin. For people that live in cold places without much sunshine, vitamin D may be an important vitamin to invest in. Vitamin D contributes to the absorption of calcium which helps build strong bones, and immune functioning to prevent diseases. Individuals that experience seasonal affective disorder (or depression in the wintertime) may need to stock up on vitamin D. 

Many of the easily noticeable food patterns that occur before depression are the same as those that occur during depression. These may include poor appetite, skipping meals, and a dominant desire for sweet foods. Nutrient deficiencies can be easily remedied with the proper vitamins and supplements. If you are wondering what the best choices would be for you, try asking your doctor or scheduling a visit with a dietitian. 

Dietary Changes

Changing your diet will take time. Starting small helps transition to a healthier lifestyle. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips or french fries on a work break, opt for a bag of granola or pack some fresh berries with you instead. Slowly, try to eliminate refined carbs and sugary foods. Ultra-processed foods that include excess oils and margarine are detrimental to both physical and mental processes. Fast foods lead to acne, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, headache, and dental disease, just to name a few. While fast foods are easy to access and less hassle, is it worth the damage to your physical and emotional well-being? Try to prepare ahead of time by packing healthy snacks for work or school. These small dietary changes can have a huge impact on the quality of your life. 

Nuts are great quick snacks to bring along during your busy day. Nuts like peanuts, almonds, and walnuts are excellent sources of protein. Nuts are also known to improve cognition and memory. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is essential for maintaining healthy skin and keeping the body hydrated. When you start feeling thirsty, this is a sign that you are already dehydrated. Keep track of your water intake by using a water bottle with lines per ounce or using a tracking app on your phone that sends reminders throughout the day. When the day fills up with activities, drinking water might be the last thing on our minds. Drinking water before snacking or meals can improve digestion and make us feel fuller, which cuts down on the unnecessary food we eat.

Feed Your Brain

To improve mood and boost overall cognition, prioritize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. A diet that consists of natural, basic sustenance can reset your body and mind. Feed your brain with healthy omega-3 fatty acids through fish. Eating fatty fish twice a week instead of another protein can increase brain function and decrease heart disease. If fish is not your cup of tea, then try taking fish oil tablets. The oils from fish are beneficial for human bodily function. Faster brain processing leads to increased motivation and overall mood. When we eat poorly, our minds are just like our guts–slow and full of gunk. 

When you are deciding on your next snack or meal, a good rule of thumb is to pick the most colorful foods. Foods like leafy greens, carrots, apples, oranges, and yogurt are some examples. There are plenty of delicious dishes to try that do not take hours to prepare. Allow your mental health to be a priority, and put a little effort into the foods you pick to eat. It helps make a list before the grocery store and stick to it so that the aisles of carbs don’t tempt you too much. Also, never go to the grocery store hungry! The hunger will cause you to stumble and make choices that you otherwise wouldn’t. As you continue to choose which foods you consume daily, give it a little thought beforehand. Your brain and your body will thank you. 

Nutrition isn’t just important for your physical health. Mental health has a direct link to the foods we consume. Foods that are highly processed with artificial ingredients are not the components our body needs to form neurotransmitters. Our neurotransmitters form in the gut and are carried to the brain. Neurotransmitters need the correct building blocks because they are in charge of regulating and formulating our moods. Next time, before you take a bite, consider the connection between food and mental health. If you would like more information, we would be happy to help. SokyaHealth is a unique, multidisciplinary, private psychiatric and mental health practice. We treat a wide range of mental health disorders, from anxiety to substance abuse to ADHD.  We believe in holistic mental health treatments. Our services include the Southern California, Oregon, and Alaska regions. To schedule a free consultation with SokyaHealth, contact us today at 866-932-1767.

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