You know that your diet impacts your physical health — but research increasingly reveals its effects on your mental health as well
Many of us like to think of healthy nutrition as a way to boost our performance in training, or as a sustainable way to lose excess weight and keep it off for good, but sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves of the importance healthy eating plays in our mental health. Quite simply, what you choose to put on your plate can reflect on your everyday life in numerous ways, and it can either make you feel amazing, energized, and healthy inside and out, or it can make you feel downright miserable, fatigued, and it can even elevate stress and anxiety if you’re not careful.
That said, if you commit to eating healthy just like you’re committed to your morning yoga and meditation, you can completely turn your life around and elevate your quality of life over the long term. After all, healthy eating is a lifelong journey, so let’s take a look at how nutrition affects your mental wellbeing and what you can do to start eating healthier today.
Paying special attention to nutrient deficiencies
Healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, certain carbohydrates and fats all contribute to a well-balanced, wholesome diet that helps maintain hormonal balance and thus elevate your mental health. So, what happens when one or more of these nutrients are missing from your diet and you have a deficiency? In a nutshell, nutrient deficiencies can cause various problems including anxiety and stress and they can even lead to long-term illnesses and chronic conditions.
Long-term deficiency may contribute to the development of depression and brain-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, not to mention the heavy toll it can take on your physical wellbeing, which can further affect your confidence and emotional wellbeing. It’s a vicious circle, and if you want to ensure lifelong mental and physical health, you have to make sure that you’re not deficient in any micro and macro nutrients.
Why unhealthy foods are the worst
People typically develop nutrient deficiencies by eating unhealthy foods, which leaves little room for the nutrient-dense foods in your day. It’s important to note that unhealthy foods do not have to actively impede your health, they’re not necessarily poisoning your body, however they are lacking in the proper nutrient makeup that you need to support healthy bodily processes — and that’s why we call certain foods unhealthy. Most of the time, there is no active ingredient that is ruining your health, it’s the lack of vitamins, minerals, and macro nutrients like protein.
For this and many other reasons, it’s important that you eliminate unhealthy foods from your life like sugar, and swap them out for wholesome meals containing a variety of vegetables and lean protein sources to fuel your body and your mind every single day. You don’t have to do it all at once, but be sure to slowly weed out the unhealthy stuff so that you can make more room for your veggies.
Adopting a holistic approach to nutrition
When you’re trying to eat healthier or lead a healthy lifestyle in general, it’s important to not be dismissive but instead to be inclusive of all the possibilities and healthy choices that you can make. Instead of eliminating complete food groups, try to combine as many of them that are healthy as you can to get as many nutrients as you can, especially if you’re going through stressful periods of your life like menopause.
In fact, menopause is a great example of a time in your life when your body starts to change, and when you can start experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety. By combining proper nutrition with natural menopause supplements that emphasize gut health and hormonal balance, you can eliminate the hot flashes and the irritability, and other symptoms associated with menopause. This is just a single example of how life can challenge your mental and physical health, so be sure to include healthy foods and natural supplements like probiotics, vitamins and minerals for a more holistic approach to nutrition.
Choose your foods carefully
You might be wondering what foods you should emphasize in your diet, but it’s important to note that it’s not about choosing one type of berry over the other, it’s about knowing what nutrients to look for and discovering the diet that’s best for you. As a general rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong by choosing foods that are rich in antioxidants like berries, leafy green vegetables, salmon, black chia seeds, and dark chocolate.
Next, be sure to choose whole foods that come from healthy, sustainable sources and don’t contain food colorings or additives. Get plenty of fiber in your diet as well to support gut health and prevent sugar cravings, and eat plenty of foods that contain hard-to-get minerals like magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
Stay consistent by prepping your meals
Lastly, always remember that healthy eating is a long-term commitment, especially if you want to experience the mental health benefits it brings. That’s why you have to stay consistent and devoted to your eating regime, and an excellent way to do that is to prep your meals for the following week. If you devote a lazy Sunday afternoon to meal preparation, you will have a much easier time staying healthy overall and you won’t feel the need to reach for unhealthy substitutes during the day.
Mental health is heavily dependent on nutrition, not just exercise and mindful meditation, which is why you should be mindful of your diet if you want to feel amazing inside and out. Follow this simple guide and you will have no problem keeping your mind and your body healthy and radiant.
You may also enjoy reading Interview: Kelly Brogan, MD | A Mind of Your Own, by Kristen Noel.