Food and Mental Health
By: Beth McHugh 2006
The food we eat has an important effect on the way we feel. And the more stress we are under, the more important it is that we eat regularly and well. A poor diet is known to lead to minor ailments, such as indigestion, as well as major diseases such as heart disease, and cancer. But just as we must be careful with our diet if we wish to remain healthy physically, it is also important to take care of our mental health via the food we eat.
Great Foods for Excellent Mental Health
- Eat five portions of vegetables and two of fruit per day to ensure a ready supply of adequate vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. The brain is the single greatest consumer of energy in the body and a diet containing appropriate protein and slow release carbs will ensure that the brain is kept ticking over and in peak condition.
- Eliminate refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white bread. Instead, go for the healthy wholegrain alternatives. Not only do they taste better, but the steady release of energy during digestion will eliminate energy spikes and the accompanying energy drops which affect the functioning of the brain, which may result in hyperactivity, raised heart rate, anxiety, depression, and lethargy.
- Get rid of the “bad” fat foods in your life but retain foods rich in the so-called “good” fats. Avocado, fish, nuts (particularly Brazil nuts), and seeds are all excellent “brain” foods.
- Eat regularly. Having three meals and three (healthy) snacks per day will eliminate mood swings caused by rapidly rising and falling blood sugar levels. Skipping meals and/or suddenly overloading an empty system with sugary or caffeine-laden foods are common causes of nervousness, shakiness, and over-stimulation. This effect is exacerbated in people already suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders.
- Finally, exercise regularly. Incorporating just 20 minutes of brisk walking into your day will stimulate the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals occurring naturally in the body. Exercise also releases the pent-up tensions of the day and gives you space to process.
If all this sounds like a diet and exercise regime designed to keep your body physically healthy, it’s no coincidence! The mind and the body are intimately connected, and one cannot function well without the other. Basically, what is good for the body is also good for the mind!