Are you eating the right foods for a healthy mind?
As a nation, we fret constantly about our weight – particularly in the face of ever-confusing health headlines. What we should eat to maintain a healthy body is a frequent topic for discussion.
Though most of us know the fundamentals of losing weight (eat less, move more!), we will often sidestep the issue of nutrition for a healthy mind. Yet with mental health disorders on the rise, and antidepressant use doubling in recent years, perhaps it’s time we shifted our focus.
The building blocks of poor mental health nutrition
If your diet contains large amounts of processed food, you are not alone. The typical Western diet is packed with low-quality, calorie-rich foods that are high in additives. Combine this with the typical Western lifestyle, often inactive and including prolonged periods of stress, and we are left with a reliable recipe for mental health issues.
Eating nutritionally depleted foods may well be a key contributor to many mental health conditions, as our nation suffers from a growing combination of mood disorders, anxiety and depression.
Start your journey to feeling better every day
There are vital nutrients for optimal brain health, and the good news is that just a few small steps may be enough to help you on the way to feeling better every day.
Let’s begin with our neurotransmitters: electrical signals (often hormones) that transmit important messages to and from our brains. Underpinning our emotional and mental stability, our neurotransmitters need to be kept balanced in order for us to interact positively with ourselves and others.
Keep your neurotransmitters healthy by eating foods rich in amino acids, which are vital protein building blocks. Around three 20g protein servings per day (such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts) will help you off the starting block, along with foods high in choline – these include salmon, chickpeas and beef.
Bringing it all together
Essential brain foods include a balance of vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamins B12 and C, along with magnesium, zinc, calcium and potassium.
You can bring all these essentials together by eating a diet rich in slow-releasing wholefoods, a wide variety of vegetables with some fruit (green leafy vegetables are particularly beneficial), some healthy fats and balanced portions of oily fish. Try to reduce processed foods in your diet, and ensure you balance carbohydrate meals with a serving of protein or fibre.
Though it may be hard to do at first, try your best to minimise sugar, alcohol, caffeine, cola drinks and chocolate (I know!) – as these are all unhelpful stimulants which can exacerbate stress and increase your blood sugar levels.
Of course, you should cement your good nutrition choices with regular exercise to increase your brain’s ‘feel good’ endorphins, and make sure you’re getting enough good quality sleep.
If this seems too much of a challenge at first, perhaps you can feel consoled with the fact that by restoring your brain chemistry balance, you will feel happier and less irritable, you will sleep better, your memory will improve and you may also reduce your risk of depression, not to mention degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s.
Those aren’t such bad rewards for good nutritional behaviour!
As a qualified and experienced nutritional therapist, I offer personalised and achievable plans that work with your lifestyle and will help you reach your health goals. Contact me today for a free consultation.