How Nutrition Impacts Your Mental Health? You’re probably already familiar with the adage you’re what you think. But I dare also put it to you that you’re what you eat.
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To many people, nutrition has more to do with physical than mental health. However, the right food can provide all-rounded benefits to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. That underscores the significance of mindful dieting.
But if you’re new to the interactions between diet and mental health, you could wonder just how food affects normal brain development. Well, you’re in luck.
We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to how the right food may elevate your brain’s performance. Read below to learn more about the impact of nutrition on your mental health.
Establishing the Relationship Between Nutrition and Mental Health
Nearly every food that we eat impacts our mental health in some way. The effects can be positive or adverse. That explains why nutritionists recommend consuming powerful foods like soy.
Also called soybeans or soya beans, soy is mainly touted for its high protein content. These legumes provide a decent amount of all nine essential amino acids. They’re also considerably high in dietary fiber, healthy (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats, and a host of other vitamins and minerals.
No wonder the past few years have witnessed increased awareness campaigns for better global soy supply chain control. Such efforts are aimed at forestalling possible shortages in the supply of soybeans in the future, in view of the rising demand for these beans.
But before we delve deeper into how foods like soy may impact our brains, it’s essential to begin by establishing the relationship between nutrition and mental health.
Now, the gastrointestinal system (more commonly known as the gut) is closely connected to the brain. Since this is the very organ that processes the food we consume, it’s clear why nutrition directly affects our mental health.
The relationship between the brain and the gastrointestinal system is so intricate that the gut has since been nicknamed the “second brain,” whereas the relationship between the two organs is commonly referred to as the “gut-brain connection” or the “gut-brain axis.”
The gastrointestinal system contains trillions of living microbes. These are healthy organisms that play numerous roles in food digestion and maintaining gut health. Some of the gut microbes are also involved in the synthesis of chemical neurotransmitters that relay various messages to the brain. These chemicals play an integral role in pain transmission, mood regulation, appetite control, and regulation of our circadian rhythms.
Various Ways Good Nutrition May Impact Your Mental Health
1. The Right Food Can Serve As Gut Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics are foods that nourish the healthy gut microbiome. These are mainly fiber-rich foods, such as;
- Whole grains like soy, barley, and oats
- Leafy vegetables like broccoli, artichokes, and asparagus
- Alliums like onions, garlic, and leeks
Probiotics, on the other hand, are foods formulated to contain gut microbiome. Notable examples include fermented products, such as yogurt, buttermilk, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
Remember that the gut and brain are interconnected. Besides, research suggests that a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics can help maintain gut homeostasis as well as enhance the body’s response to stress and depression. Therefore, any food that provides nutrition to the gut microbes directly affects your mental performance.
2. The Right Food Can Boost Dopamine Levels
Dopamine is integral to the brain’s performance. This chemical is responsible for inducing feelings of pleasure, motivation, and contentment.
The brain releases more dopamine when you’ve just accomplished a vital feat to let you feel good about yourself. That means low dopamine levels can lead to feelings of self-guilt, low self-drive, and low self-worth.
Fortunately, you can now boost dopamine levels naturally by ramping up your intake of certain foods. These include nuts like almonds, fruits like bananas, dairy products like milk, unprocessed meat like turkey, and omega-3-rich seafood like salmon and eggs.
3. The Right Food Can Improve Serotonin Signaling
Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter involved in various roles in the body. The chemical influences learning and memory. It also regulates body temperature as well as feelings of happiness, hunger, sex drive, and sleep.
Low serotonin levels are widely associated with stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, there’s a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which only proves how effective this neurotransmitter is at relieving depression.
Numerous foods have been shown to boost serotonin levels naturally. Most of these are products which are high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as soybeans. Other foods that might elevate serotonin signaling include spinach, salmon, nuts, seeds, eggs, poultry, milk, and chocolate.
4. The Right Food Can Increase Your Melatonin Levels
Melatonin is yet another vital chemical involved in regulating normal brain functions. This neurotransmitter is probably most famous for its ability to relieve sleep disorders like insomnia and jet lag.
Adequate sleep translates to better cognitive abilities. Moreover, some studies have also established a nexus between high melatonin levels and improved cognitive development.
That explains why melatonin supplements or foods naturally high in this compound (such as eggs and seafood) may positively impact your brain’s performance.
Nutrition plays a key role in affecting our mental performance. Therefore, be sure to integrate products known to aid healthy brain development into your diet. You might want to talk to your nutritionist for the best counsel on nootropic foods.
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