It goes without saying that what we eat has an impact on our physical health. But equally important to emphasize is the role of diet on our mental health.
What is “mental health”? It’s basically a big umbrella term that refers to a person’s mood, level of functioning, cognitive abilities, and overall sense of wellbeing.
Numerous studies have identified links between diet and overall mental health and wellbeing. The evidence in sum suggests that a balanced and nutrient-rich diet could protect you from mental health problems like low mood and anxiety whereas an unhealthy diet high in processed foods and refined sugars could be a risk factor for poor mental health.
There are several theories regarding the ways that diet may impact overall mental health. For one, proper nutrition throughout the developmental period is vital for healthy brain development. Additionally, research suggests a link between a healthy gut microbiome, which is influenced by diet, and healthy brain function. It is estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin – a neurotransmitter that promotes good mood, adequate sleep, and proper digestion – is made in the gut, and a healthy gut microbiome supports the production of serotonin.
Much remains to be understood about the intricacies and specifics of nutrition’s role on one’s overall mental health. Broadly, however, we know that eating nutrient-dense foods like dark leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, and seafood – and limiting highly processed foods and foods high in refined sugars – can boost your brain health, leading to a variety of important mental health benefits like more energy and sustained focus as well as higher, more stable mood throughout the day.
Start here if you’d like some guidance on making healthier dietary choices. Remember that you don’t need to overhaul your entire diet overnight – the best way to make sustainable change is to implement healthier choices mindfully over time. For example, you might start by swapping out a highly processed snack with a whole food alternative. Notice how you feel mentally and emotionally depending on what you’ve eaten. The more you pay attention to how the food you eat makes you feel, the more likely you’ll be to make food choices that serve your well-being.
Lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can help to make you more resilient to stressors and reduce your risk of experiencing mental health problems, contributing to a better quality of life. However, mental health and wellbeing depend on a complicated and layered web of factors that don’t stop at nutrition.
A licensed mental health counselor can help you identify effective strategies for improving your overall wellbeing and life satisfaction. At GLPG, we believe in the power of therapy, and we hold the therapeutic relationship in high regard. That’s why we’ll go to great lengths to match you with your perfect therapist.
Click here to get started. We’ll guide you along the way.