Does what we eat impact our mood?
Simply put the answer is, YES! Your brain is “on” 24/7 and requires a constant supply of fuel and that fuel comes from the food we eat. Proper nutrition “feeds” our minds to improve cognitive functions and regulate emotions. It is common for mental health challenges to disrupt healthy eating patterns. Depression and anxiety symptoms can often lead to over or under eating. This can lead to tiredness, sluggishness, and a poor relationship with food. Maintaining proper nutrition and healthy eating habits in your daily life can limit the disruption of mental health challenges to your eating and can even help improve mental health.
It may surprise you just how much our gut health influences our brain. However, a recent explosion of research on the Gut-Brain Axis has demonstrated just how interconnected our nutrition and mental health are. Many mood disorders have links to gastrointestinal problems, and many gastrointestinal diseases are accompanied by comorbid mental illnesses. Maintaining a healthy gut can contribute to the maintenance of a healthy mind. Foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt and sourdough bread can help regulate your gut microbiome. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins is also important for maintaining a healthy gut.
Nutrition and how it affects our mental health is especially important during childhood due in part to the rapid growth and brain development that occurs. Important nutrients such as folic acid, Vitamin B6, and choline are necessary for the synthesis of important neurotransmitters during development. In addition to improving mental well-being, establishing good nutrition habits will instill practices that will be beneficial well into adulthood.
Staying hydrated and maintaining healthy eating habits are important for our health and development, but it isn’t always easy. Life gets busy and with the ever-growing convenience of fast food it can be challenging to make time for healthy eating. Meal prepping at the beginning of the week can help ensure you have access to healthy meals during busier times midweek. Prepping breakfast the night before is a particularly valuable tool to make sure you are getting three meals a day even with busy mornings. Beyond this, carrying a water bottle and having a goal for how much water you want to drink each day (typically at least half an ounce for each pound you weigh), can help ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day. For more ideas on how to eat healthy on a busy schedule check out this article from Self.
Resources for Everyone
- Mindful and Emotional Eating from Sutter Health
- Healthy Diet: Eating With Mental Health In Mind from Mental Health America
- Nutritional Psychiatry: The Gut- Brain Connection from Psychiatric Times
- The Critical Role Nutrition Plays in Mental Health from Psych Central
Resources for Children
- Nutrition Tips for Kids from the Family Doctor
- How to Help Kids Who Are Picky Eaters from Child Mind Institute
- Maternal Nutrition During Pregnancy from Johns Hopkins