5 Types Of Food That Can Improve Your Psychological Well-Being
People rarely associate food with mental health but research suggests we should all think again. The spokesman for Dietitians of Canada, Andrea D’Ambrosio pointed out that when people are suffering from heart diseases or diabetes they are quick to make inquiries on nutritional adjustments that can improve their condition but rarely do the same when managing mental health like depression and anxiety.
In as much as many may try to deny it, there are myriads of studies that are tracing the relationship between food and mood. According to a dietician at Fuelling with Food, Tristaca Curley, there are lots of nutritional elements that are implicated with mood regulation especially those that decrease the risk of anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression.
Although there are other factors that may play significant roles in mood besides food, Curley mentioned that the different elements are building blocks for different body chemicals or networks like the neurotransmitters. There are specific types of food that have been found to play a prominent role in some neurotransmitters involved with mood including the likes of dopamine and serotonin.
There is an alarming rise in the cases of mental health disorders and the cost of therapies globally is gulping $2.5 trillion annually. The interest in the relationship between food and psychological well-being has increased globally in recent years. Studies suggest that incorporating the following food groups in our diet can impact positively on mental health.
The process of oxidation is necessary for the cells of our body to produce energy which the body and brain need to function. However, this process also leads to oxidative stress which occurs mostly in the brain. The level of ‘feel good’ good chemicals decrease due to oxidation with a resulting decreased mental health. Foods rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables help the body to repair the damage from oxidative stress and mop up free radicals (linked to damage of brain cells) from the body. Besides fighting oxidative stress, increasing the intake of antioxidants can protect the brain from inflammation.
Polysaccharides are complex sugars which are broken down to release energy for the body and the brain. They are better than simple sugars because they release their energy slowly into the body which ensures sustained energy for the brain cells. Simple sugars found in snacks and sweetened drinks can elevate mood and lead to a burst of energy but these effects are usually temporary. Besides impacting the brain negatively, simple sugars also impact negatively on the insulin, increasing the risk of diabetes.
Vitamin B has been found to be the precursor molecule for the production of chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which elevate mood. There are studies that suggest that high folate, vitamin B12 and B6 in diet can lower the risk of depression. These vitamins can be found in ample amount in beans, vegetables, beetroot, and bananas. Deficiency in vitamin B can stall the production and release of certain brain chemicals which can adversely affect mental health. On the other hand, increasing the amount of vitamin B intake can increase the production of these neurochemicals. Happiness is the side effect of the increased production of these chemicals.
Probiotics And Prebiotics
Probiotics are live organisms that when ingested in sufficient amount can have a positive effect on the body of the host. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are compounds that as selectively digested by the beneficial organisms in the body of the host providing these organisms with the nutrient needed to grow and out-compete pathogenic organisms. There are a few researches that suggests there is a relationship between the probiotics in our gut and our mood. There are different types of probiotics and they can be found in yogurt and fermented foods. Probiotics have been found to improve immune reactions, lower anxiety, and inflammation in the brain. In general prebiotics and probiotics improve physical and mental health.
The main sources of omega-3 fatty acids are nuts, fish oil, nuts, eggs, and leafy vegetables. It has been long established that omega-3 fatty acids which are polyunsaturated fatty acids have an important impact on the health of the brain – and indirectly mental health. Intake of Omega-3 has also been linked to the decrease in the progression of dementia.