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The relationship of nutrition and mental health
Are you really what you eat? Although it might sound clich, if you look at it from the perspective of mental health, this is pretty much true. - photo by Amy Rothermel
Are you really what you eat? It might sound clich, but if you look at it from the perspective of mental health, it's actually true.

Your brain is always switched on and managing your thoughts and movements, even when youre sleeping. As a result, the fuel or food you consume to power your brain has an impact on how it performs.

Theres a growing body of evidence suggesting that what we consume (and what we don't) can affect how we feel.

We already know that red and processed meats are associated with diseases like diabetes and heart disease. But over the past few years, researchers have found that these meats can play a part in mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

When is your brain functioning at its best?

Your brain functions at the peak of its abilities when youre consuming healthy food that contains antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

If you have these in your system, your brain stays safe from oxidative stress that can damage cells.

At the same time, your brain can get damaged if you ingest the wrong substances like processed foods and food thats high in refined sugar. Not only does this worsen insulin regulation, but it also causes inflammation and oxidative stress.

What Does the Research Say?

Studies have consistently found a correlation between high refined sugars and impaired brain function, including mood disorders. 95 percent of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, and its lined with a 100 million neurons. When there are no good bacteria in your intestinal microbiome, you can expect to have problems with your appetite, sleep and mood.

Studies have found that when people take probiotics, their perception of stress, anxiety levels and general mental health improve when compared to those who dont take probiotics.

Studies have also found that those on traditional Japanese and Mediterranean diets were at a much lower risk of depression when compared to people on standard western diets.

So what does this mean?

You might find it hard to believe that good bacteria can have such an impact on your life, but it does. So if youre looking to make a change, start by paying attention to how different types of food make you feel.

Dont just pay attention to what youre feeling right after you eat, but observe how you feel the next day. Then, try a healthy diet for two to three weeks.

Start by cutting out processed foods and sugars. It might also be a good idea to go dairy-free. Once youve completed the clean living period, slowly introduce your old favorites back into your diet and see how you feel after eating them, one by one.

This should be enough to convince you that eating healthy has an enormous impact on you, physically and emotionally.

Even if youre not completely convinced, you have nothing to lose. You can always go back to the food you know and love if you dont see positive results.
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