Eating well is an essential part of living a healthy life, and doing so is not only great for your body but your mind also! Just like your body, your brain needs certain vitamins, minerals and more in order to function as efficiently as it can!
Today we are going to take a look at the role nutrition plays in happiness and mental health, as well as how exercise is also an important factor in both of these things!
Nutrition and Mental Health
The role that nutrition plays in mental health has long been under-appreciated. However, there is increasing evidence to support the connection between a healthy diet and better mental balance.
Studies have shown that eating a diet high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can help to prevent the onset of certain mental health conditions*. This includes things such as schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. This is largely due to the abundance of antioxidants present in these foods, which help to combat the damage caused by free radicals.
Evidence shows that those who regularly consume either fresh fruit or fresh vegetables every day are less at risk of struggling with their mental health than those who don’t*. This is due to a combination of things, and can be attributed both to the increased amount of nutrients being consumed, as well as the act of consciously including these foods in the diet.
Healthy eating is a self-care act in itself, and taking the time each day to nourish your mind in this way is a great way to demonstrate kindness and love to yourself.
Hormones and Healthy Eating
The nutrients that we consume through our food directly impact our hormones, which have a huge influence our mood. When our hormones are out of balance we can experience a wide range of feelings, such as sadness, anxiety, or feelings of being overwhelmed. Our appetite will also likely be affected.
There are certain foods that are known to be great for balancing the hormones. For example, cruciferous vegetables are thought to be useful for tackling excess oestrogen in the body, whereas foods that are high in B vitamins can help to tackle feelings of depression that may have occurred due to a hormonal imbalance.
The Good Stuff
In order to eat for optimum health – both physical and mental – it is key that we consume a combination of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The importance of hydration should not be overlooked either!
When we talk about ‘the good stuff’ in relation to your diet, we are talking about natural whole foods, whole grain produce, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables – essentially anything that has been grown and not manufactured!
One of the reasons that many healthy foods are great for your mind are that they contain beneficial levels of thiamin. Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is known to boost the mood, especially in those who are already experiencing depression.
The Bad Stuff
Research has shown that over the last 60 years the amount of people actually hitting their five a day quota has dropped by more than 30%. As the amount of good stuff being consumed is in decline, unhealthy eating habits will therefore be on the rise!
When we talk about ‘the bad stuff’ in relation to your diet, we are talking about processed and packaged foods, junk foods, foods that are high in sugar, high in calories and high in saturated fat!
Eat Well, Exercise Often
When you eat a diet rich in whole foods and other healthy goodies, then you are giving your body the fuel that it needs to exercise well. As we discussed in our article on Wednesday, feel-good chemicals are released in the brain when we exercise. These feel-good chemicals, known as endorphins, help to balance our mind and enhance our happiness.
So, the best thing that you can do to nourish your mind and fuel your body for optimum health and happiness is to eat well, exercise often and remember to be kind you yourself!