Nutrition and Mental Health
It is widely known that good physical health or good fitness leads to good mental health, and vice versa. But often underemphasized is the connection between nutrition and mental health. Nutrition is also an integral part of fitness, and in this blog, I will examine the relationship between nutrition and mental health.
According to The Center for Anxiety Disorders, diet and mental health are more closely related than we might believe and comprehend; eating a healthy diet is critical in minimizing the amount of mood fluctuations and protecting against anxiety and depression. On the other hand, an unhealthy diet is essentially a “risk factor” for anxiety and depression.
In addition, The Center of Anxiety Disorders notes that although there is no direct evidence yet found that connects diet and mental health, it can list several important connections between a healthy diet and its impact on the brain. To be more specific, it is already known that a healthy diet impacts brain health by increasing serotonin levels through different food enzymes which improves mood. Furthermore, a healthy diet increases good gut bacteria, which decreases inflammation in the brain; brain inflammation affects both cognition and mood. Next, a healthy diet boosts brain development and alters enzymes and brain proteins to increase neurotransmitters, which link brain cells together. In short, there are clear benefits to the brain, the focal point of mental health, from having a diet; I believe that there will soon be direct evidence that demonstrates that a good diet or good nutrition will result in good mental health.
In terms of crafting a diet that can improve mental health overall, studies have shown that foods rich in certain vitamins may be particularly beneficial. According to a report by Ramsey and Muskin that was published in Current Psychiatry in 2013, “Vitamin C intake is significantly lower in older adults (age ≥60) with depression.” In other words, Vitamin C may be essential in mitigating or preventing depression. Moreover, a deficiency in iron and zinc can be attributed to an increase in the likelihood of depression.
Foods that are high in Vitamin C are generally fruits and vegetables; in particular, according to Healthline, these fruits and vegetables that are good sources of Vitamin C are: citrus fruit, like oranges, kiwis, lemons, plums, cherries, kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lychees, papayas, and strawberries.
Foods that are high in iron, according to Healthline, include: shellfish, spinach, liver and other organ meats, legumes (beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans), red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, turkey, broccoli, tofu, dark chocolate, and fish.
Fish that are high in zinc, according to Healthline, include: meat, shellfish, legumes (beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans), seeds (hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and sesame seeds), nuts (pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, and almonds), dairy foods (milk and cheese in particular), eggs, whole grains (wheat, quinoa, rice, and oats), and dark chocolate.
Now that I have listed specific foods that may benefit one’s mental health, it is time that I also list foods that can be detrimental to one’s mental health if eaten in excess. To be simple, junk food, which is a broad category and a typical diet, is the main type of food that is harmful to one’s mental health, according to several sources. Please limit the calorie intake for junk food if you would like to remain mentally strong for a long period of time.
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