Do you ever have those weeks where you just feel down and sluggish? It can feel so frustrating and make it so difficult to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, we do not realize how nutrition can impact our mental health. In this blog post, we will go over the importance of nutrition as well as some easy ways to start making changes.
Your brain never takes a break so it needs fuel! Consuming the correct amount of calories for your body and activity level is imperative in maintaining energy levels. But just consuming enough calories isn't enough. Proper nutrition plays a key factor in mental health because without the proper energy you can’t be at your best! Think of it this way- you can’t just put in anything into a car and expect it to run properly, you need to use the right fuel.
Your Gastrointestinal track is one of the most important parts of digestion. It encounters all the food you consume but it is also lined with millions of nerve cells and neurons that produce neurotransmitters like Serotonin. Serotonin influences happiness, sleep, and helps inhibit pain and mediate moods. Overall, Serotonin production is so important for mental health. In order for your body to produce healthy levels of Serotonin, it relies on the gut to be lined with good bacteria. This is important because it protects the lining of the gut, limits inflammation, and activates neural pathways between the gut and brain. To maintain a balance of good bacteria and limit the bad bacteria, you need to maintain a healthy diet. This means a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, high in fiber, healthy fats that can be found in nuts, legumes, salmon, etc, and high in lean protein like chicken or tofu. In fact, a healthy diet has been found to lower the risk of depression by 25-35%! (Harvard Health Blog)
Of course, changing your diet or eating healthy isn’t the easiest thing to do. The trick to making a lifestyle change like this is to start slow! Start with one meal or one goal and work your way up from there. I always recommend starting with breakfast because it's an easy meal and it is motivating when you start your day off right. Opt for a healthy option that will give you energy for your day like some whole grain toast with nut butter and a piece of fruit or oatmeal with agave and berries. These are both nutrient dense options that will prepare you for the day. Once you have one meal, it's easier to make changes for the others. Find a path that's easiest for you and remember that it's okay if every meal isn’t always perfect!
We hope that you learned something new in this blog post! Nutrition is a complicated subject that impacts so many aspects of the body and cognitive functioning. You could write several textbooks on the impact of nutrition on mental health alone! If you are interested in learning more there are many registered dietitians that provide researched backed information through the internet and social media. My favorite is Alix Turoff, who also hosts a free podcast full of amazing information. Just remember when seeking out information about nutrition: a nutritionist is anyone that has some sort of certification (regardless of how valid that certification process is) while a Registered Dietician has a bachelor's degree in dietetics from an accredited program, often a masters degree, over 1000 hours in a competitive internship program, and has passed a rigorous exam to receive licensing. Be careful who’s information you trust!