You Are What You Eat
“You are what you eat,” true or false? While you aren’t going to turn into a French fry if that is all you eat, what you eat does affect you. Diet can have a substantial impact on mental health. March is National Nutrition Month, making this the perfect opportunity to discuss nutrition’s impact on mental health.
How does what we eat affect mental health? It turns out, the Snickers commercials are true; “You aren’t you when you’re hungry,” as mood can be affected by blood glucose levels. Many processed foods, which are often high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, cause dramatic spikes and drops in blood sugar making you feel fatigued, irritable, and even depressed. In fact, there is evidence that demonstrates those struggling with depression notice an improvement in their mood when they decrease their sugar intake. Eat a combination of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to help prevent the blood glucose roller coaster. What might that look like? Try whole grain toast with smashed avocado and eggs.
Another way our diet affects mental health is through our intake of amino acids, as these help produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. B vitamins, magnesium, and omega 3- fatty acids, help produce these key neurotransmitters. Animal protein provides you with significant amounts of B vitamins, while nuts, dark chocolate, and spinach are good sources of magnesium and fish and fortified eggs can provide you with sufficient amounts of omega fatty acids. Vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked to mental health difficulties, particularly depression. Fifteen minutes of sunlight and dairy products can provide you with the recommended amounts of vitamin D.
It’s important to note there is not one diet that is right for everyone, we all have to find what works for us, and one way to figure out what foods and diet are going to work best for you is by keeping a food journal. Keep track of the foods and drinks you are consuming, what time you are consuming them, and record how you feel after consumption. Do you feel energized? Do you feel sluggish? Do you feel energized initially, but then your energy plummets? Keep track of any and all types of reactions you have to foods and beverages.
We are more of what we eat than we realize. Knowing that, try to stay away from processed foods and eat a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Eat well for your body and your mind