Heartland Behavioral Health Services- Diet & Mental Health Pt. 1- July 22, 2014

By Alan Matthews

Published 07/22 2014 09:22AM

Updated 07/22 2014 09:32AM

Can my diet and eating habits affect my mental health?

We all probably know that the food we eat affects our bodies. Cutting back on junk food and choosing healthier options helps you maintain a healthy heart, strong muscles and an appropriate weight. But, our mood may also be affected by what we eat. Our mental health is as important to our overall well being as our physical health, as physical and mental health impact one another directly. The old saying, “you are what you eat” can be better stated, “you feel how you eat.” For example, have you ever felt down or “blah” after a week of traveling, lots of heavy meals and fast food? Or after a fantastic weekend of fresh fruits, veggies, healthy grilling we tend to feel renewed and ready to go? Studies have shown that nearly two thirds of people who do NOT report mental health issues also report a diet that consists of larger amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Individuals who report some mental health problems have more frequency of eating takeout meals, starches and quick-ready to make processed foods. These are not coincidences; medical researchers continue to study and support the effects of dietary choices on mood and mental health. This is sometimes called the “food-mood connection.”

Nutrients that may support good mental health

Evidence suggests that certain nutrients may support emotional well-being. All of these nutrients are part of a balanced diet. Proper nutrition is likely to keep you feeling better physically and emotionally.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health by reducing “bad” cholesterol in your body and increasing “good” cholesterol.
Research showsomega-3 supplement improves mood. Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids may affect the way ours brain sends signals throughout your body which improves mood
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in seafood, such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines and mackerel. They can also be found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
Tryptophan is an amino acid (a building block of protein) that your body needs so it can produce a chemical called serotonin. People who have depression often have a low serotonin level.
Tryptophan can be found in red meat, dairy products, soy and turkey.

Magnesium is a nutrient that helps your body produce energy. It also helps your muscles, arteries and heart work properly. Magnesium can help us improve muscle composition and formation.
Magnesium can be found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts and avocados.
Folic acid and vitamin B-12 are B vitamins that play an important role in metabolism and production of blood cells. They also are related to chemicals called dopamine and noradrenalin. In many cases, people who are depressed don’t have enough of these chemicals. Increasing a person’s levels of folic acid and vitamin B-12 may increase our response to medicines that treat depression.
Folic acid is found in foods such as leafy greens and fruits. Vitamin B-12 is mainly found in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products.

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