Can You Eat Your Way to Better Mental Health?

Can You Eat Your Way to Better Mental Health?

Macaroni and cheese. Mashed potatoes. Pizza. Chocolate cake. Most of us have at least one “comfort food” we turn to when we’re feeling stressed, lonely, or just plain down. The problem: Many so-called comfort foods might actually be making us feel worse, increasing feelings of depression or anxiety and making it harder to feel better.

That’s the conclusion of an emerging area of medicine called nutritional psychiatry, which explores the relationship between the nutrients we take in and how we feel emotionally and mentally. And as it turns out, choosing the right foods could go a long way toward helping you improve your mental health.

At Bowman Medical Group in Beverly Hills, California, our team is devoted to providing every patient with comprehensive treatment, including medication, therapy, and key lifestyle changes to help overcome depressionanxiety, and other mental health issues. In this post, learn about the surprising link between your diet and your mental health — and what you can do to improve both.

The connection between nutrition and mental health

Most of us have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat,” dozens of times. And for the most part, we associate the phrase with our physical health. But what we eat (and even how we eat) can affect our mental health, too. In fact, the connection is so strong, there’s an emerging body of psychiatry called nutritional psychiatry, which is devoted to exploring it.

The link between nutrition and mental health is rooted in the gut-brain axis, that is, the connection between your brain and the microorganisms in your gut. These microorganisms don’t just aid in digestion. They also act on the neural pathways that influence the central nervous system, which includes the brain. In fact, the gut is responsible for roughly 95% of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood regulation and many mental health issues, including depression.

Aside from the gut-brain axis, nutrition can influence mental health in other ways, too. Specifically, if you have a nutrient deficiency, your brain may not receive the nutrients it needs to help stabilize your mood and organize your thoughts. Data show Americans are deficient in many important nutrients, including nutrients like vitamin D, zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate, which have been shown to have a major influence on mood and mental health.

Finally, chronic inflammation is a relatively common problem for many people, and it’s one that can contribute to mental health issues. Incorporating foods that help fight inflammation may also be beneficial in reducing the sym[toms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.

The best foods for your moods

While there’s no single food that can offer a “cure” for any type of health issue, there are some foods that can support good mental health and overall wellness. 

Dark berries

Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries are chock full of inflammation-fighting antioxidants and other important nutrients.

Leafy greens

Dark-green leaf lettuces, chard, kale, and spinach are full of vitamins and minerals, including folate.

Fatty fish

Sardines, mackerel, salmon, and other fatty fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil is another good source.

Whole grains

Whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, farro, and barley, promote good digestion, regulate glucose levels, and help people feel full longer. Eating these foods can help keep you from filling up on unhealthy snacks. Plus, they contain a wealth of nutrients essential for good mental health.

Nuts, seeds, and legumes

Walnuts, almonds, flaxseed, peas, beans, and similar foods are packed with healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals. They’re also good sources of protein, which is important for brain health.

Fermented foods

Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha all contain microorganisms that support a healthy gut. These foods can help maintain a healthy gut-brain connection.

Custom care for better health

While good nutrition can have an impact on your mental well-being — and your physical wellness, too — dietary changes are no substitute for therapy and medication as needed. Instead, nutrition should be used alongside these therapies to optimize your wellness and help you keep your symptoms at bay.

Our team offers a patient-centered wellness program aimed at helping every person make important lifestyle changes, including nutritional changes, based on their needs and goals. To learn how our wellness program can help you improve your wellness, call 310-276-4003 to book an appointment with Bowman Medical Group today.

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