As the saying goes, ‘you are what you eat’. This applies not just to your digestive system and weight control, it also includes your mental health and cognitive skills.
Eating sensibly will not cure certain serious mental conditions, but food does help to strengthen your brains’ ability to understand and connect with the necessary functions of life in general.
Scientists and researchers have found that whilst the relationship between the two is complex, there is a connection. To put it simply, your stomach sends messages to your brain, the brain acts as a transmitter to the nervous system, and what you consume will affect your thoughts, learning and cognitive skills. To explain in detail the mechanics of the brain would take up many pages, so the most important thing in this article is to inform you of the foods that are good for the digestive system and nourish your brain cells to the best of their ability. The rest is very much up to you.
The Basics for Mental Health
Before explaining the type of foods by name, there are a few tips to follow.
- Try to follow a balanced diet as much as possible
- Eat the right fats to promote your brain health. Avoid trans fats.
- Drink regularly, sipping throughout the day.
- Dehydration can cause dizziness and confusion.
- Keep caffeine intake under control. Too much can cause confusion, up and down moods, lack of balance.
- Likewise with alcohol – excess can mean highs and lows, agitation, depression and other moods.
- Your judgement can be at risk with excess caffeine and/or alcohol.
- Avoid refined sugar where possible. Cakes, pastries, sweets all contain high levels of sugar. Avoid ups and downs by keeping sugar intake low.
‘Good Foods for Great Moods’
Getting down to the good foods for brain health, eating the following is a great step towards improving your mental wellbeing. For some, to change your diet in a short space of time may be difficult for you, but any change is good and you can build up gradually. You will be surprised how quickly you can adapt to a change in diet.
- Fish and seafood – oily fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna and salmon contain good levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to improving learning skills and memory. Most seafood and fish won’t harm you, but white fish does not contain as healthy fats as oily fish. Salmon also contains a relatively high proportion of Vitamin D, which is believed to relieve depression. If you are allergic or sensitive to fish products, you should avoid them.
- Meat - turkey and chicken – the best of the lean, white meat proteins. These meats contain tryptophan, which your body uses to create serotonin, an essential part of managing your train of thought, memory, lessening mood swings and easing depressive bouts.
- Whole grains – very much as good for you. People can tend to use the word literally, and although it does mean ‘grains’ as such, it also includes items like beans and soy products. Beans, of course, also fall under the bean category!
The good news on top of this, is that whole grains also help in the absorption of tryptophan, so if you ate a nice recipe which included chicken and beans (like a chicken and bean chilli, or a casserole), you get a double whammy to help alleviate anxiety and depression. Equally as beneficial, beans contain complex carbs, which supply the brain with more energy via glucose production. The glucose is slow releasing, so you have a more or less consistent supply, evenly distributed to the brain.
- Fruits and vegetables we know have a wealth of benefits to human health. They provide a range of essential vitamins and minerals and some are packed with antioxidants that combat disease. Leafy greens such as spinach and fruits such as berries are well documented in providing a multitude of such nutrients. Colourful plates of food (red, greens, yellows) are also good to stimulate your brain through sight.
- Probiotics are foods that encourage ‘friendly bacteria’ and act on the gut to improve your digestive health. However, at the same time, they are strongly documented as proving a good aid to easing depression. Many people gain the benefits of probiotic action by consuming items such as yoghurt, kefir (drinks primarily), and having an element of fermented foods in their diet (such as sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh.
You can see how important it is that in order to achieve the best health for both your body and your mind, food plays a very important role. Certain foods or even environmental conditions can affect your way of life. It could be something that you have never realised that causes some kind of reaction on your mental health, so why not take a Ultimate Health, in the comfort of your own home. The results will show from a large range of items that are tested, whether something could be affecting you.