May is Mental Health Month and this year the Mental Health America organization is focusing on habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illness.1
Along with working with your primary care provider, developing healthier nutrition habits can positively impact your mental health. More research is discovering that a healthy diet is not only good for your waistline, but also good for your mental health. For example, one study found that the risk of depression increases about 80% in teens who follow a nutrient-poor diet vs. those follow a nutrient-rich diet.2
Three ways good nutrition can impact our mental health:
- It’s critical for brain development: Our brain is made up of 70% fat, so it needs a consistent supply of healthy fats to fuel our brain cells and control various brain processes. That’s often why when individuals follow a low-fat diet their mental health is affected negatively, and they may feel more anxious, depressed, or moody.
Foods to support brain health: Incorporate healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives, fatty-fish like salmon, and coconut oil on a daily basis. Taking a daily high-quality Omega-3 supplement can also be beneficial.
- It affects our gut health: Our gut is home to trillions of good and bad bacteria that impact our immune system, sugar cravings, and mental health. In fact, there is a constant connection between our gut and our brain, and scientists even consider gut our “second brain.” Consuming foods that support our gut health and reduce inflammation can affect our moods in a positive way, while consuming foods high in sugar and trans-fats can impact our moods in a negative way.
Support gut health: Incorporate probiotic rich foods such as plain Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha. Taking a daily high quality probiotic supplement can also be beneficial. Avoid foods high in sugar and trans-fats such as soda, juices, chips, frozen meals and baked foods.
- It provides our brain with positive chemicals: The nutrients from certain foods not only fuel our bodies, it also supplies our brain with positive feel-good brain chemicals such as serotonin, tryptophan, and dopamine. For example, serotonin is high in carbohydrates and may be a reason why we often crave them while we are stressed.
Foods high in positive brain chemicals:
-Proteins such as turkey, chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, and eggs
-Carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, oats, carrots, squash, pineapple, and bananas
-Healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, cheese, dark chocolate, flaxseed, and chia seeds
Other ways to support your mental health:
-Moving your body on a daily basis
-Getting at least 7-8 hours of solid sleep each night
-Incorporating stress-management techniques such as meditation, journaling, or talking with a loved one
-Getting sunlight, and getting your Vitamin D levels checked by your health care provider
Interested in learning more about ways how nutrition can impact your mental health? I’m here to help! Schedule a free 30-minute dietary consult today.
Health and Happiness,
Autumn Enloe, MS, RD, LD
Live Your LifeTM
Bringing Physical Therapy & Wellness to You!
Autumn Enloe is a registered and licensed dietitian who holds a Master’s degree in Food and Nutritional Sciences. Autumn has worked with hundreds of clients on areas such as weight management, blood sugar support, gut health, mindful eating, and food sensitivities. She applies a holistic approach to nutrition and knows that our health is based on much more than just what we eat. Learn more about our dietary services here: http://www.liveyourlifept.com/physical-therapy-wellness-services/dietary-services
1Mental Health Month. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may. Accessed on March 16, 2017
2Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health? http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20150820/food-mental-health#1. Accessed on March 16, 2017.