You are what you eat, not only physically but mentally too. The foods that you eat daily impact your mood in several ways. For example, skipping meals can lower blood glucose levels and make you tired and weak. Similarly, several studies indicate that nutritional deficiencies may affect mental health. Therefore, it makes sense to understand that food influences our mental health. Read on to learn more about the link between diet, mood, mental health, and food to improve your well-being.

How Food Affects Mental Health?

The connection between diet and mental health stems from the association between the brain and gastrointestinal tract. Millions of bacteria reside in the gastrointestinal tract. They produce neurotransmitters, chemical signals that transfer messages from the gut to the brain. Some common neurotransmitters influenced by food intake are serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Healthy foods help the “good” bacteria multiply, which affects neurotransmitter production. Alternatively, having junk food frequently causes inflammation, which hampers the production of neurotransmitters. The brain receives and follows positive messages when neurotransmitter production is going well. But when inflammations from diets negatively affect neurotransmitters, one’s mood goes downhill.

What Foods Boosts Mental Health?

The best foods for mental health are mainly those that help lower inflammation. Here’s what to buy in your next grocery shopping for a healthier, happier you.

  • Whole foods
    Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined, which helps retain their nutrition. These include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. If buying 100% whole foods isn’t an option, choose minimally processed foods with at least some healthy ingredients and minimum additives such as food colorings, stabilizers, and preservatives. These food additives may disrupt neuron or hormonal function, causing irritability, insomnia, aggression, and anxiety.

  • Antioxidants
    An antioxidant-rich diet helps prevent age-related brain cell damage, depression, and other mood disorders related to inflammation. It also reduces skin damage/aging caused by environmental exposure to free radicals. Seeds, berries, freshwater fish, and leafy green vegetables are a few excellent sources of antioxidants.

  • Fiber
    Sugar rush and sugar crash both affect our mood and energy adversely. The solution here is to eat foods rich in fiber. Fiber helps the body absorb glucose slowly, preventing sugar rush and sugar crash. Many healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans contain fiber. You may also consume psyllium husk, an excellent source of fiber.

  • Vitamin D
    Vitamin D supports the production of serotonin, which influences happiness and anxiety. Also, note that serotonin gets produced in the gut. So, alongside the consumption of Vitamin D, the overall health of GI also matters in serotonin production. So, get a few minutes of sun exposure every day, or consider taking supplements after consulting your doctor.

  • Fermented Foods
    Fermentation makes food replete with probiotics, bacteria that promote your gut health. Tempeh, pickles, curd, yogurt, and sauerkraut are some of the best sources of fermented foods.

What Foods Negatively Affect Mental Health?

Highly processed foods laden with salt or sugar, sources of refined carbs (for example, white bread or white sugar), high-fat dairy, and foods with saturated and trans fat are foods not good for mental health. So, choose the healthier alternatives as much as possible. In addition, smoking and alcohol also wreak havoc on your mental health.

Takeaway

Diet and mental well-being go hand in hand. Therefore, pay attention to your meals as a part of your plan to effectively manage your emotional, psychological, and mental health.