We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat” and we understand how diet impacts our physical health. But its effect on our mental health is now being recognised. New evidence is starting to suggest that good nutrition is essential for our mental well being, not just our physical health.
Think back to when you treat yourself to a piece of cake, or two. There is that initial mood enhancement, and you feel energised, but this feeling passes pretty quickly and we often end up feeling worse than when we started. Mental illness is often associated with ups and downs, When we eat certain foods, these highs and lows become obvious. It is no wonder that people who eat an overall healthy diet tend to have better mental health, so lets look at how some foods affect our brain health which influences our mental well being.
Food on the brain: Fats and Carbohydrates
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Our brain and central nervous system is made up of about 60 per cent fat; specifically omega-3 fats. We get these fats in our diets from fatty fish’s such as salmon. Omega-3s have been found to help reduce inflammation in the body but also plays an important very role with pathway signalling in the brain and regulation of our moods. A high-fat, diet increases our systemic inflammation throughout our brain. The specific association has with the chemicals that make our brains cells grow and thrive.
Carbohydrates: Our brain is made of us and needs to be fuelled by good quality carbohydrates such as fresh fruits and vegetables and wholegrains – which gets broken down into glucose which is essential for optimal mental functioning. If we spike our blood glucose, as highly refined carbs do, our bodies have to overproduce insulin and when this happens, we come crashing down.
One of the best ways to improve your mental health is through your gut. Our modern diet is significantly different from that of our ancestors. Nutrition is a key contributor to our brain functioning which affects our mental health. Dietary changes alone won’t be sufficient for everyone and are not a substitute for other forms of treatment. If you’re struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder, talk to a therapist or your family physician.