· By PYM STORE
10 tips to improve mental health with nutrition
There are a number of different causes of mental health problems. They range from child abuse or trauma to long-term stress, chemical imbalances in the brain to the use of alcohol, with lots of causes in between.
There is another thing that plays a major role in mental health problems that has been gaining more and more attention in recent years. And that thing is nutrition.
Many studies have been conducted that show there is a connection between nutrition and depression. These studies took a look at the diets of people who were depressed and the findings were cause for concern.
Scientists observed that the diets of depressed people included poor food choices that went so far as to include foods that may have actually been making their depression worse.
One cannot say for certain that a poor diet is the sole cause of depression for some people. Oftentimes several factors can be attributed to the development of depression.
However, studies have shown that an unhealthy diet can trigger depression in some people and can make depression worse for others.
Nutrition and mental health
Depression isn’t the only mental illness that can be affected by diet – others include anxiety and eating disorders. The research that has established the connection between what we eat and how we feel has birthed a new field of study called nutritional psychiatry.
Nutritional psychiatry is rooted in studies such as the ones we mentioned above where there are undeniable links between what food we feed our bodies and how our brains function. Psychiatrists use these studies to work with patients who suffer from mental illness and help them to change their diets to include foods that will work to help them break free of their mental struggles.
A large part of that work includes asking patients to pay attention to how they feel when eating different foods. And we aren’t talking about the instant gratification feeling you get from eating a tub of ice cream; we are talking about how you feel the next day. Chances are good that, when you slow down and pay attention, you’ll realize that tub of ice cream makes you feel tired and uncomfortably full and will likely spark additional sugar cravings.
Another major part of the field of nutritional psychiatry is the hard process of actually changing the diet in order to improve mental health.
Since this is no easy process, we are sharing some tips that can help you get through this challenging (but in the end, rewarding) experience.
Nutrition tips to improve mental health
1. Eat more plants
Plants are known to be great sources of fiber. And studies show that a diet rich in fiber is key to a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a major role in mental health.
A diet that is high in fiber helps to lower inflammation in the body, which helps to keep mental health in check.
2. Incorporate more fermented foods
While you can opt to take probiotic supplements, fermented foods are a more fun way to get your brain the nutrients it needs. Probiotics increase the healthy flora in the gut which, according to studies, help to boost mood.
Some of our favorite fermented foods include:
- Yogurt with live active cultures
3. Include omega-3 fatty acids
These fatty acids are essential to humans, but our bodies can’t make them on their own. That means we have to get them from food or supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids are key because they play a major role in a variety of bodily functions including making hormones that regulate key things in our daily life (blood clotting, inflammation, and more).
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fish oil supplements
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Olive oil
4. Up your B vitamin intake
Sure, B vitamins sound important, but how key are they?
As it turns out, they are very key when it comes to neurological health. Studies show that by adding more B vitamins into your life, your mood will improve.
Here are the key B vitamins you want to make sure you’re getting either via food or supplementation:
- B1. Helps to improve mood.
- B3. Helps support health sleep patterns and lower blood pressure.
- B5. Helps support key body functions such as oxidizing fatty acids.
- B6. Helps to synthesize neurotransmitters and amino acids.
- B12. Helps with anxiety and depression.
5. Add more spices
Spices are considered by many in the nutritional psychiatry field to be a super food that flies under the radar. Spices are a great way to boost the flavor in your food but also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that your brain health will benefit from.
Some of the spices you want to start using include:
- Turmeric (must consume with black pepper to activate its power)
6. Include more amino acids
Amino acids are the different proteins in your body that are responsible for all kinds of processes including digestion, healing, energy, mood regulation, and more.
To help keep your mental health strong, you need these amino acids. Some of them occur naturally in the body while others need to come from food.
Here are the foods rich in amino acids you should start eating to boost your mental health:
- Animal protein
7. Cut out processed foods
Processed foods have been shown time and time again to cause mental illness issues, so it’s best to steer clear of these as much as possible.
8. Make a shopping list
Before heading to the grocery store, plan out healthy meals and snacks, and then make a list of the items you need for those meals. Don’t go to the store without a list or else you may find yourself grabbing unhealthy, processed foods by habit.
9. Don’t grocery shop while hungry
We’ve all been there where we’ve gone to the grocery store on an empty stomach and ended up making some regrettable, unhealthy purchases. To keep that from happening, time your grocery store runs right after eating a healthy, filling meal so that you aren’t tempted to grab unhealthy items while shopping.
10. Eat more mindfully
Rather than making a plate of food and immediately going to eat in front of the television or with your phone in hand, make eating meals a more relaxing experience. This will help you to give eating the attention it deserves to ensure you’re chewing your food completely and that you’re stopping eating when you’re full rather than finishing the entire plate just because it’s there.
Studies show a strong connection between what food you put in your body and mental health. Thus, if you find yourself struggling with mental health issues, a great place to start in the healing journey is by changing your diet to be one full of the nutrients your brain needs to do its job.
Here are some quick tips to help you improve your mental health with nutrition:
- Eat plants
- Eat fermented foods
- Consume more omega-3 fatty acids
- Incorporate spices
- Include more amino acids
- Cut out processed foods
- Create a shopping list
- Grocery shop only with a full stomach
- Eat more mindfully