Science shows that nutrition and mental health are linked. This connection is essential to many vital bodily functions.
The idea behind food impacting your overall mood and mental health may sound strange, but science shows our food choices impact both our brains and bodies. A primary reason for this is the close connection between the human gastrointestinal (GI) system and the brain.
Mindful eating involves paying attention to the messages your body sends when you are eating. During a meal, think about how you feel when you eat and what you are eating. Some nutrition professionals and mental health providers also recommend keeping a food journal. Tracking what you eat is an excellent way to understand your eating patterns and how nutrition affects your mood.3
Alcohol consumption is closely connected to several mental health conditions. Excessive alcohol can worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and other mood disorders. Increased stress can have a negative impact on your diet, as alcohol is high in calories and carbohydrates, and mental health.4
Carbohydrates often get a bad reputation when it comes to a healthy diet. It is important to remember that not all carbs are the same. Some carbs are less beneficial to your diet and mental health than others.
Complex carbohydrates give you energy. Key sources of complex carbohydrates include starchy vegetables, brown rice, beets, sweet potatoes, and quinoa. Many food choices have more nutritional value than other carbohydrate-containing foods and will keep you feeling fuller longer than simple carbs found in sweets.
While you can get many of these essential vitamins and minerals from a diet rich in mentally healthy foods, you can also talk to your primary care provider about adding supplements to your diet in areas where food may not provide ample daily intake.
The best diets for mental health include folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamins A and C. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of B and C vitamins. A recent review of over sixty nutrition and mental health studies showed that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables was associated with higher levels of self-efficacy and optimism and lower levels of psychological distress and depression.5
To better understand the link between nutrition and the brain, start by paying attention to how what you eat makes you feel. Consider your physical and mental health state both in the moment (as you are eating) and the day after. You can also gain a better understanding of nutritional psychiatry and the effects of diet on mental health by trying a “clean” diet for a period of two to three weeks.
A clean diet requires removing all processed foods and sugar from your meal plans. At the end of your experiment, consider how you feel compared to when you eat your regular diet. Some people report such significant changes when they eat a diet that focuses on nutrition for mental health that they do not return to their previous eating patterns.
Living with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders can lead to several challenges to your overall health. If you or a loved one have a diagnosed mental health condition, it is important to seek help from a professional treatment program like San Diego Detox. As part of an individually designed rehab program using evidence-based therapy tools, you will learn more about your mental health and how to safely and effectively manage your symptoms.
In addition to proven therapy models, our team at San Diego Detox understands the importance of alternative therapies, including nutritional education. We will work with you to incorporate your diet into your overall mental health treatment plan. If you are ready to take the first steps towards healing, contact us at San Diego Detox today to learn more about mental health treatment at our luxury southern California program.