How Diet Affects Mental Health and Wellness

Your diet has a profound impact on both your physical and mental health. Here’s how diet affects mental health.

The Global Health Institute defines wellness as the “pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.”

There are various components of wellness, with mental and emotional being the two associated with mental health. They represent how you engage others through feelings, problem-solving, learning, and expressing emotions.

Mental health is how well you think, feel, and act. If you never encounter stress, never experience unexpected tragedies, or are never disappointed by life’s offerings, you will have positive mental health and wellness. The likelihood of this happening is close to zero. Everyone goes through ups and downs in life.

There are specific steps you can take to improve mental health and wellness. Recent research shows improving your diet will lead to significant mental health benefits. In this article, we’re exploring how diet affects mental health.

How Diet Affects Mental Health and Mood

Did you know you have two brains? Well, not really, but the gastrointestinal tract is often referred to as the body’s second brain. The reason is that communication occurs between the gut and brain through the vagus nerve.

Neurotransmitters like serotonin are known for their connection to mood. Specifically, serotonin boosts happiness and reduces depression; dopamine makes you feel calm and pleasure; endorphins are natural pain relievers; GABA reduces anxiety, and so on.

Because most neurotransmitters are in the gut, the foods you eat are directly linked to mental health. Overeating junk food, those high in sugar and carbohydrates, can lead to depression and anxiety and trigger other disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia by causing inflammatory reactions throughout the body. Sugar causes mood swings as your blood sugar spikes and then crashes. You feel high and happy and then low and depressed. To feel better again, many people consume more bad foods. This is very common among Americans.

Healthy diets eliminate mood swings and provide stabilization of blood sugars and mood.

Which Foods Are Best for Mental Health and Wellness?

Poor diet contributes to one in five deaths each year, according to research, killing more people globally than tobacco or high blood pressure. This is a crucial time where making even small dietary changes can lead to substantial health benefits, mentally and physically. Start with the foods you eat.

Non-Processed Foods

The healthiest foods are the ones that have been handled the least. Each time something is done to change the food in any way, that’s how many times it has been processed. For example, an uncut tomato straight off the vine from the garden is unprocessed and extremely healthy. When a manufacturer cuts the tomato to make salsa, it becomes processed. Also, additional processed items are combined with the tomato. If the salsa is cooked, seasoned, and preserved with additives, it is less beneficial to mental health. Dipping high-carbohydrate potato chips into the salsa further decreases benefits.

A tomato is healthier than salsa or pizza sauce. Potatoes are more nutritious than potato chips. Apples are more beneficial than apple sauce, dried apples, and apple pie.

In the future, shop for the least processed products to improve mental health.

Fiber-Rich Foods

Most Americans do not get enough fiber in their daily diets. Without enough fiber, the foods you eat will cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar. When you eat high sugar, high carbohydrate foods, you will feel a mood boost temporarily, then a crash. You feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster.

Foods high in fiber do not digest quickly, which is a good thing when it comes to mental health and wellness. Because the fiber takes longer to digest, glucose or sugars are absorbed slower and stay balanced in your system. You don’t have the up and down extremes emotionally or physically.

Nutrient-Rich Foods

Knowing the foods with the most nutrients make it easier to incorporate them into your diet plan. Fresher is always better, even with meats and dairy products. Below is a list of foods with nutritional values and their benefits.

  • Selenium and omega-3s lower cholesterol, support heart health and reduce depressive symptoms. Foods high in omega-3 and selenium are fatty fish, grass-fed beef, walnuts, eggs, milk, and yogurt.
  • Pre- and Pro-biotics that balance gut bacteria can boost GABA neurotransmitters and relieve depression. Foods include yogurt, beans, oats, bananas, garlic, and onions. Any fermented foods are great at stabilizing gut bacteria.
  • Vitamins A, B, and C are excellent at fighting depressive symptoms. Foods high in these vitamins include seafood, fruits, soybeans, sweet potatoes, melons, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots.
  • Minerals needed for mental health and wellness include iron, magnesium, and zinc. Foods include shellfish, lean red meats, eggs, dark chocolate, fruits, nuts, poultry, and whole grains.
  • Spices that boost mood include saffron, oregano, turmeric, and many others. They are simple to use and readily available at various stores. If you can grow the spices yourself, they are even more nutritious.

Vitamin and Nutrient Supplements

It is impossible to get all the nutrients we need from food alone. Too many toxins in the environment, hidden ingredients in foods, and an overload of stressors prevent our bodies from absorbing what it needs. You still need the nutrients, though.

Taking vitamin and nutrient supplements can provide what you can’t get through food alone. Supplements are everywhere, from dollar stores to nutrition stores. Choosing the right supplements requires doing a little research. To choose, research the companies with the best success, reputation, and reviews. Don’t only look at reviews on Amazon. It’s common practice for companies to offer free products for positive reviews. Confirm positive reviews with those posted on the company’s website or other review sites. Check the Better Business Bureau. If you know someone who takes vitamins, ask them which ones they prefer. Talk to your doctor, a nutritionist, or a local health expert.

Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That’s why it is crucial you do your research.

You can start implementing these tips today, and soon, you will see improvements in your mental health functioning and overall wellness. You deserve it.