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Nutrition and mental health

A simple change in diet can dramatically improve ones mental health. The body and the brain require certain nutrients to stay healthy, happy, productive, well slept, satisfied and so on.

How Nutrients Affect your Physical Health

Nutrients such as carbs, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins contribute to the production of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Through electrical communication between one another, these neurotransmitters control thoughts, sleep patterns and mood changes. Without adequate nutrition, neurotransmitters may become out of balance, and a host of mental disorders is likely to follow.

There are many nutritional factors that the brain relies on to maintain good mental health. Please read on to find out more.

Kilojoules and Mental Health

The human brain uses 20-30% of the body’s energy intake when resting. This energy is derived from foods and beverages and without it, the brain is no longer to effectively control factors influencing ones mental health such as its:
  • Activity levels
  • Hormonal levels
  • Oxygen functions
  • Immunity
  • Nutrient transport and more.
… Leaving the individual feeling depressed, anxious, low and fatigued.

Complex Carbohydrates Improve your Mental Health

Carbohydrate-rich foods such as breads, pasta, rice and cereals, and others such as starchy vegetables and refined sugars all may affect ones mood and mental well being. The sugar content triggers an insulin response, which in turn stimulates a release of Tryptophan in the brain. This encourages the brain to produce more of the neurotransmitter Serotonin, leaving you feeling calmer and perhaps sleepier after any carbohydrate-rich meal.

Proteins Can Make or Break Your Mental Health

Foods rich in protein and their building blocks amino acids have a direct affect on ones mental health. Some of these foods may include meat, poultry, dairy products, legumes and nuts. As with carbohydrates, amino acids from proteins contribute to the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that allow us to concentrate, change our mood, motivate behaviors and so on. Tryptophan itself is an amino acid that may be sourced from the diet. Without it low levels of serotonin may result, causing a shift in mood in most individuals. In excess, some amino acids derived from proteins in the diet may build up in the blood and cause brain damaging diseases that carry serious mental effects.

Fatten up your Brain, Fatten up your Mental Health

For a long time we were taught that all fats made you fat and that it should be cut out from the diet where possible. Science though has recently shown that some fats are essential in the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals essential to good mental health. The studies also revealed that a by reducing fat (and as a result cholesterol) Serotonin levels depleted, causing changes in mood, behavior and energy levels.

Omega 3 fatty acids found in Linseed and fish oils have also been linked to improved mental health. Science has linked populations with high intakes of the nutrient to low incidence of mental illnesses such as depression.

Foods to Avoid

Certain foods are more likely to affect your mental health more than others. These include:
  • Caffeinated products, such as chocolate and coffee.
  • Diary products
  • Sugar
  • Wheat products
  • Alcohol
  • Products containing artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

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