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MENTAL HEALTH + NUTRITION

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

The strong correlation between nutrition and mental health is undisputed, yet many of us remain

oblivious to the deep influence that our food choices can have on both our psychological state and

general wellbeing. In this article, we'll investigate how diet impacts mental health while offering helpful

pointers on sustaining your body and spirit for optimum contentment.


Let's examine how nutrition plays a role in our mental health. Research suggests that inadequate

nourishment leads to an amplified risk of developing depression and anxiety, while having a balanced

diet can beneficially impact one’s mood and overall psychological well-being. But what would constitute

as the right type of food for optimal mental wellbeing?


Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are an irreplaceable type of polyunsaturated fat that can make a significant difference in your overall health. Described as essential for humans, these fats must be consumed through our diet since the body cannot produce them itself. Fortunately, Omega-3s abound in many diverse food sources including fatty fish, nuts and some plant-based alternatives!


Omega-3 fatty acids may provide several potential benefits to your health, such as:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in the upkeep and wellness of your brain, having been demonstrated to enhance cognitive ability and mood. What's more, these useful compounds may help prevent age-related mental deterioration.

  2. Studies have revealed that Omega-3 fatty acids can be hugely beneficial for mental health, and might even assist in managing depression and anxiety.

  3. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for fetal brain and eye development during pregnancy, so it is paramount that expectant mothers ensure they have an adequate intake of these nutrients. This can help to provide a healthy start for their little one and also promote the health of nursing mothers.

  4. Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied as a potential source of neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons in the brain. This process is crucial for healthy cognitive functioning and helps to keep our minds sharp!

  5. Omega-3 fatty acids facilitate the synthesis of neurotransmitters, which bridge communication between cells in the brain. Unbalanced levels of these chemicals are correlated with various mental health disorders.

  6. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to combat inflammation in the brain and protect against mental health issues like anxiety and depression caused by chronic inflammation.

  7. Omega-3 fatty acids not only form the essential framework of brain cell membranes, but they may also have a part in enhancing brain development and performance.


If you're looking for a dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, consider these following foods:

  • Fatty fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are high in EPA and DHA.

  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are high in ALA.

  • Egg yolks: Egg yolks are high in DHA.

  • Vegetable oils: Vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil and canola oil are high in ALA.

  • Fortified foods: Some foods such as milk and yogurt are fortified with DHA and EPA.

B Vitamins

It’s essential to maintain proper levels of B vitamins, as they are crucial for various physiological processes in the body such as energy generation, mental function and neurotransmitter production. These water-soluble elements have a profound impact on overall health and wellness. There are eight B vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin).


Consuming a variety of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens is essential for optimal health as these foods contain necessary B vitamins. Deficiencies in certain B vitamins have been linked to myriad ailments; therefore it's paramount to ensure that you receive enough of these vital nutrients through your diet or supplementation.


When it comes to mental well-being, B vitamins are particularly pivotal. These vitamins play an integral role in the development of neurotransmitters - chemicals that allow communication between brain cells and neurons. A lack of B vitamins can be a contributing factor to depression and anxiety, while regular consumption can improve moods as well as cognitive function.


B vitamins are essential nutrients in the diet, and here are some delicious food options that offer a great source of them:

  • Whole grains: Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa are high in B vitamins.

  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are high in B vitamins.

  • Legumes: Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are high in B vitamins.

  • Leafy greens: Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli are high in B vitamins.

  • Meat and poultry: Meat and poultry such as beef, chicken, and turkey are high in B vitamins.



Antioxidants

Antioxidants are vital compounds that help combat the destruction of cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals, consisting of molecules with an unbalanced electron configuration, can become detrimental to health and lead to serious issues such as heart disease or cancer. Yet antioxidants provide a shield from their hazardous impacts - neutralizing their unstable composition and protecting our bodies!


Incorporating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds into your diet can help you reap the many benefits of antioxidants. Studies have suggested that diets high in antioxidants may reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases while promoting an overall sense of wellbeing. So it is wise to make sure these essential foods are a part of your daily menu.


When it comes to mental wellbeing, research has unveiled that antioxidant-rich diets may reduce the probability of depression and anxiety. Not only do antioxidants have a protective effect on mental health, but they can also help mitigate inflammation - which has been connected to an amplified risk for certain psychological disorders. Hence, consuming plenty of antioxidant-packed foods is key in promoting optimal brain function and emotional stability.


Here's a list of foods with an abundance of antioxidants:

Fruits: Fruits such as berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), cherries, plums, oranges, and apples are all high in antioxidants.

Vegetables: Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are high in antioxidants.

Whole grains: Whole grains such as quinoa, oats, and whole wheat are high in antioxidants.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants.

Legumes: Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are high in antioxidants.

Whole foods

For a healthier lifestyle, it’s essential to opt for whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Unlike processed food options, these do not contain added preservatives and sweeteners or artificial additives – nothing but nutrition goodness!


Examples of whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and unprocessed meats.


Unlike natural foods, processed items have been manipulated from their original state. This could be in the form of heating, freezing, canning or packaging them. As well as this, additional elements like sweeteners and preservatives may also be included in such edibles to improve shelf-life and taste.

Examples of processed foods include canned soups, frozen dinners, snack foods, and baked goods.


It's essential to recognize the distinction between whole foods and processed foods; here are a few areas that set them apart:

  1. Whole foods are a nutritional powerhouse, boasting higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and fiber than those found in processed counterparts.

  2. Whole foods typically have fewer ingredients compared to processed foods, and are usually free of additives such as preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavors. Conversely, packaged goods often harbor a lengthy list that is composed of added sugars and high fat content.

  3. With preparation in mind, whole foods tend to demand more work from you such as cutting and cooking compared to processed items that are typically ready-to-eat or need minimal effort.

  4. Compared to most processed foods, which are often loaded with preservatives that extend their shelf life, whole foods usually have a much shorter expiration date.


Here are a handful of nutritious and natural whole foods:

Fruits: Fruits such as apples, berries, bananas, and oranges are whole foods.

Vegetables: Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peppers, and carrots are whole foods.

Whole grains: Whole grains such as quinoa, oats, and brown rice are whole foods.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds are whole foods.

Legumes: Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are whole foods.

Meat and poultry: Meat and poultry such as beef, chicken, and turkey are whole foods when they are minimally processed and do not contain added ingredients.

Water

Staying hydrated is fundamental for maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. Everyone's daily water intake varies depending on factors such as age, gender, weight, and activity level; however if an insufficient amount of fluid is consumed then dehydration can occur which has detrimental consequences. Even minor dehydration can have a severe impact to the body so it’s essential that you drink sufficient amounts of water each day in order to stay healthy.


These are some of the possible repercussions from daily dehydration:


  1. Exhaustion: Without adequate hydration, fatigue can set in since the body lacks the liquids it needs to function optimally.

  2. Headaches and migraines can be a result of dehydration, where the lack of fluid causes the brain to contract, consequently pulling away from your skull.

  3. Constipation is often caused by dehydration, as when the body lacks necessary fluids it causes stools to become harder and more taxing on your digestive system.

  4. Feeling defeated by the lack of focus? Dehydration can be an underlying reason for your inability to concentrate and think.

  5. Reduced physical aptitude: When your body is deprived of fluids, it can no longer sustain vigorous physical activity. Consequently, dehydration may lead to a decreased level of performance during exercise or sports-related activities.


Limit Sugar

As the research continues to mount, it's becoming increasingly clear that excessive sugar consumption can have detrimental consequences for both physical and psychological health. While some added sugars in moderation are fine to include in a balanced diet, overall sugar intake should be minimized as much as possible by choosing foods with lower levels of sugar.

According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their intake of added sugars to a maximum of 25 grams (6 teaspoons) daily and men 36 grams (9 teaspoons).

Here are a few potential health risks associated with over-consumption of sugar:


  1. Experiments suggest that consuming copious amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain since sugary treats are usually loaded with calories, resulting in a nutritional imbalance.

  2. Dangerously high sugar intake levels can cause a heightened risk for harmful chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

  3. An abundance of scientific evidence suggests that excessive sugar consumption may be linked to a heightened probability of developing certain mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.


Eating healthy doesn't have to include a no-sugar diet. Here are some delicious food options that can still be enjoyed while maintaining balanced blood sugar levels:


Fruits: Fruits such as berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), apples, and pears are low in sugar.

Vegetables: Most vegetables are low in sugar, including leafy greens, broccoli, peppers, and Brussels sprouts.

Whole grains: Whole grains such as quinoa, oats, and brown rice are low in sugar.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds are low in sugar.

Legumes: Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are low in sugar.

Meat and poultry: Meat and poultry such as beef, chicken, and turkey are low in sugar.

Organic foods

Organic foods are not just healthier for your body; they're also better for the environment! They never contain synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, irradiation or growth hormones. Organic farming practices strive to achieve sustainability while preserving vital resources such as soil and water, ensuring that future generations can enjoy healthy produce too.


There are numerous potential advantages of eating organic food, including but not limited to the following:


  • Opting for organic food is a wise choice if you're looking to avoid the potentially damaging effects of synthetic pesticides. Rest assured that your health and the planet's safety are taken into account when these foods are produced without any chemicals.

  • Studies suggest that organic foods may possess a more dense nutrient content than conventionally grown foods, especially in regard to antioxidants.

  • People who try organic foods often remark that their flavors are unparalleled. Organic produce has a reputation for being far tastier than conventionally-grown counterparts.

  • When you choose organic foods, you are actively participating in the preservation of natural resources and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.


How to get started eating healthy

  1. To foster optimum health, prioritize meals made up of complete and minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. Such nourishing ingredients are indispensable for sustaining wellbeing.

  2. Be sure to plan ahead. By planning your meals and snacks in advance, you can make healthy choices that will benefit both your body and mind. Try packing a nutritious lunch for work or preparing delicious yet wholesome foods during the weekend for when weekday mornings get hectic.

  3. Eating a diverse assortment of foods is key to receiving the myriad of vitamins and minerals your body requires. Experimenting with new flavors each week could be as straightforward as adding an unfamiliar fruit or veggie to your plate, or even introducing different whole grains into your diet.

  4. Resist the urge to skip meals: Going without food can lead you down a rabbit hole of unhealthy eating habits that may be difficult to climb out. To achieve maximum nutrition and avoid overindulging, stick with regular balanced meal times and snacks throughout the day in order to maintain steady blood sugar levels.

  5. Staying hydrated is crucial for your well-being, as it helps you feel fuller and more satiated. Make sure to drink eight glasses of water every day at a minimum; however, if you are working out or in hot weather conditions, then increase the amount accordingly.

  6. Consume with care: To guarantee that your meals are packed with the right amount of nutrients without going overboard, be mindful of serving sizes. Invest in measuring cups or a food scale to make portion control easier and try not to eat until you're too full.



If you are looking to improve your mental health through diet, the amount of time it will take to observe changes depends on numerous factors such as current dietary habits, the level of any existing mental health issues and wellbeing. To reap more meaningful results in a shorter period, opt for small yet sustainable modifications instead of drastic alterations at once.


With the right dietary modifications, you may detect a difference in your mental health within several weeks; however, it is essential to be patient and allow your body time to get acclimated. Some individuals might require additional time for their organism to adjust.


To sum it up, nutrition and mental health are intertwined. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, drinking lots of water and obtaining enough rest can be greatly beneficial for your psychological well being. Research has shown that poor eating habits may increase the risk for certain emotional conditions such as depression or anxiety. An unhealthy diet could also result in behavioural problems or even impair cognitive performance including memory capacity and learning skills. Not only may a poor diet lead to inflammation, which has been linked with mental health issues, but it can also cause nutrient deficits that adversely affect your psychological well-being. It is essential to prioritize the quality of what you are putting into your body and strive for healthy eating habits if you want positive mental health results.

If you would like to know more about options to change and improve your quality life through exercise and nutrition, please reach out to Speed Power Strength SPSgym.com. Our professional coaches can literally change your life.

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