When it comes to diets and eating habits, the first thing that comes to mind is the health effects that they have on us. Unbalanced diets are associated with lack of energy, vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, unhealthy weight, heart disease, and other illnesses. In contrast, well-balanced diets are associated with good health; they help you fight off disease, boost energy levels, get better sleep, improve brain function, and even help you control your body weight. However, not many people concern themselves with the significant effects that your diet can have on your mental health.
It would come as no surprise that the food or drinks that you consume can substantially influence your mood. If you think about it, we turn to ice cream when we feel heartbroken, chocolate when we need an instant serotonin boost, coffee when we need an energy surge, and soup or tea when we are searching for comfort. While food has always been associated with our emotions and psychological state, the link between food and mood lies on a deeper level. Eating a well-balanced diet can help boost your mood and energy levels and can allow you to think more clearly. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, along with the number of carbohydrates that you consume, can greatly affect your mental health.
Fats and proteins
To balance your thoughts and feelings, you must include amino acids alongside the carbohydrates in your diet. You can get your daily intake recommendation of amino acids from proteins, which is why you should make sure to incorporate them into your diet. Lean meat, eggs, fish, legumes, seeds, nuts, soy products, and cheese are all sources of protein. You may also consider including a type of protein powder in your diet to increase your protein intake. As is the case with carbohydrates, many people seem to think that fats are harmful to the body. However, this is far from true. Omega-6 and omega-3, among other fatty acids, are needed so that our brains can function properly. You can find healthy fats in dairy products, eggs, avocados, poultry, seeds, nuts, and oily fish. Maintaining a low-fat diet for too long can negatively impact your mental health. Since omega-3 fatty acids and fat make up around 60% of our brain, neurons heavily rely on them for effective communication.
Blood glucose and carbohydrates
Did you know that 20% of the energy that your body consumes is required by your brain alone? Your brain needs the energy to function and, unlike other muscles in your body, it can’t store excess carbohydrates. This is why your brain needs a constant supply of energy and oxygen. If the blood supply to the brain is hindered, however, you become susceptible to injury. The energy that your brain receives comes from the blood glucose, which is generated from the carbohydrates that you eat. A lack of energy in the brain can affect your ability to think effectively and make you feel tired and weak. To avoid this, you should make sure to eat regular meals that include carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, many people cut off carbohydrates from their diet completely, which can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines, your carbohydrate intake should make up 45–65% of your daily calorie intake. While this may seem like much, always keep in mind that there are many different sources of carbohydrates, and some of them are healthier than others. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fruits, and even low-fat dairy are among the healthier carbohydrate options. The exact number of carbs that you need would depend on your age, activity level, height, and weight. You should also try to keep your blood glucose levels relatively constant throughout the day. This is important because rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels can negatively affect your mood, causing irritability and triggering symptoms of anxiety. Seeds, cereals, oats, and nuts are among the foods that slowly release energy. You can also try to eat several smaller portions throughout the day.
While the physical health benefits of maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet are well-known, many people don’t understand the link between diet and mental health. Having balanced amounts of carbohydrates, fat, proteins, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water will ensure your physical and mental well-being. This is because the energy that your brain needs to function, as well as the general components of your brain, should be acquired from various food sources.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has a particular interest in mental health and well-being.
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