Mental health has been a growing topic of discussion in recent years. New research is revealing more about the factors that affect psychological and emotional health. We are also learning more about the important role that mental well-being plays in many different factors of our society: academic achievement, economic success, family stability, medication management, and much more.
What does this have to do with nutrition? Recent research has shown a connection between a healthy, balanced diet and improved mental health.
Photo from nutrition.org
There are many possible reasons for this connection:
1. Nutritious foods - such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins - are full of nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. This includes supporting proper brain growth and development in kids, reducing inflammation, regulating mood, boosting energy levels, and fighting off disease.
2. Eating a balanced diet can support healthy weight management. Being at a weight that is healthy for YOU (this is different for each individual and each stage of life) can keep your body feeling its best and promote a positive body image.
3. When you feel better, you tend to eat better...and when you eat better, you tend to feel better! Mental health problems, such as depression, can sometimes lead to poor nutrition choices as a coping mechanism. On the other hand, good mental health can empower individuals to make nutritious choices throughout their day.
4. Food affects the chemicals in your brain. In fact, healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can boost levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, and higher levels of this chemical in your brain make you feel happy and energized. Empty calorie foods, like sweets or fried foods, can make you feel slow or sleepy.
Photo from www.premierintegrativehealthkc.com
Note: Food alone is not meant to be a treatment for mental illness. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about what is best for managing your personal health!
Interested in learning more? Visit these great resources, which were used to develop the content of this blog:
Sarah Wilson, RDN, Nutrition Manager at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns