Do you know that what you eat can affect your mental health? That’s because, as humans, what we eat is crucial to our overall health and well-being. This extends to mental health, and there has been compelling enough scientific evidence to prove this connection.
What’s the Link Between Eating and Mental Health?
Our gastrointestinal system, or “the gut,” has a close relationship with the brain, which is one reason the food we eat profoundly affects our mental health. The mechanics behind this is simple.
There are trillions of living microbes in the gut. These microbes do many things for the body, like making neurotransmitters that transfer signals to the brain to control rest, mood, pain, appetite, and emotion.
The link between the digestive system and the brain is referred to in medical terms as the gut-brain axis. The gut is often referred to as the second brain because of its complex connections with the rest of the body, especially the brain. According to some studies, the foods we eat interact first with the colonies of microbes in our guts, which in turn can affect the well-being of our brains and, by extension, our emotional and mental well-being.
What Can You Eat to Improve Your Mental Health?
You should focus on specific nutrients and diet patterns that can help you nurture those microorganisms in your stomach that send information to your brain. Some of these nutrients are omega-3 fatty acids, iron, folate, zinc, magnesium, vitamin c, and vitamin A. Other things you can eat are probiotics and prebiotics.
Foods high in prebiotic fiber feed the good bacteria already residing in your digestive tract, while probiotics come with the good bacteria themselves.
Prebiotics and probiotics are nutritional supplements that keep the digestive tract in a state of homeostasis that is balanced stability. In addition, some studies have pointed to it as the root cause of the body’s reaction to anxiety and depression. Prebiotics and probiotics can be found in various foods, such as garlic, ginger, vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Unhealthy Eating Habits That May Affect Your Mental Health
While some food and habits benefit mental health, others may be detrimental. For instance, ultra-processed foods are bad for your gut health and by extension, your mental health. They are high in calories and have lots of unsaturated fats. Some common ultra-processed foods are baked goods, candy, salty snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
In addition, consuming foods that have been excessively processed regularly has been linked with an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Another habit that’s detrimental to mental health is alcohol consumption. Alcohol abuse and psychological problems have been discovered to create a self-perpetuating cycle. People with mental health issues may turn to alcohol for short-term relief from their symptoms, only to find that it has the opposite effect.