The old saying that you are what you eat stands true especially when you look at your behavior and your feelings in relation to your nutrition. Is it too strange that we crave sugar such as ice cream or cookies when we feel down, or that we feel cranky before we get that first cup of coffee in the morning before work? We fuel our bodies, and thus our minds and emotions with the food we consume, and our mental health depends heavily on what we choose to incorporate in our diets.
In recent years, as more people are struggling with anxiety and depression among other mental illnesses, various branches of science have started researching the numerous connections between our lifestyle choices and these and other mental health troubles. That said, there are certain steps and precautions you, as an individual can take to protect your mental wellbeing by choosing foods that nourish not just your palate or satisfy your sweet tooth, but that help you boost your energy and mood on a much healthier, long-term level.
Nutrient deficiencies can add to your blues
You’d be surprised just how vital micronutrients are in managing your emotions and mental health. For example, the lack of B6 in your diet can lead to irritability, lack of focus, and poor mood all around, because it’s essential in producing serotonin and norepinephrine, both vital for your sense of wellbeing.
Choosing nutrient-dense foods doesn’t mean limiting yourself to macronutrient-dense foods. In fact, you should aim for more vitamin and mineral-packed foods that will help you balance your energy, hormones, and keep you focused throughout the day. Consider adding these to a smoothie for your morning routine or your afternoon snack, and you’ll also boost your immune system, too.
The Paleo mindset for your energy
The diet inspired by the Paleolithic era, aptly named Paleo, is often used by individuals as a dedicated strategy not just for targeted weight loss, but also for the sake of eliminating fatigue and boosting energy levels. This method of consuming plenty of healthy fats and lean, grass-fed protein sources paired with lots of veggies, nuts and seeds allows you to fuel your body on a cellular level.
All of your cells contain energy generators called mitochondria that need nutrient-dense, healthy foods to function properly. By feeding your cells with nutrient-dense ingredients and even healthful supplements, you empower your cells to repair more efficiently, generate more lasting energy, and let your body recover from all the continuous, regular wear and tear. Consider this an all-encompassing approach that lets you tend to your body and your mind by optimizing your energy levels.
Mediterranean longevity on your plate
For years, scientists have been baffled by the longevity and extraordinary health of people living in different Mediterranean countries only to discover the crucial role their diet plays in their health. In addition to being exceptionally beneficial for heart health, preventing stroke, and improving weight management, this diet also seems to help with managing depression.
This diet is not only based on some of the most nutrient-dense and heart-friendly foods such as fish, olive oil, fresh vegetables, and legumes, but it’s also staggeringly low in processed foods, red meat, and processed sugar. There’s your clue for introducing and eliminating specific food groups to help boost your mental health by following the lead of Spain, Italy, and Greece!
Trust your gut to feed your mood
Some stages in life can be particularly challenging for keeping our emotions and mental health in check, but with the right nutrition essentials, you can certainly enjoy those chapters in your life much more. For example, menopause can be a source of numerous issues for women due to the changes in hormones, and the many accompanying side-effects such as the unpleasant hot flashes, night sweats, and the like. All of that can be regulated and improved with the help of probiotics, which are known for their beneficial impact on the digestive tract and their role in balancing hormones during menopause.
For women who have trouble consuming enough of these beneficial microorganisms, there are probiotics supplements to add to their diets and ensure the right microbiome balance for their gut. Make sure that you pick the supplements with the right cultures your belly will benefit from the most. Adding probiotic-rich foods such as kefir and yogurt is another helpful way to feed your gut, elevate your energy, and keep your mood in check.
The paradox of sugar and energy
As we’ve already mentioned, and most of us have been through a similar “ordeal”, when we feel sluggish or reach that midday slump at work, we crave something sweet as a way to elevate our energy and restore our focus. However, sugar has a downside that everyone consuming sugar in any amount has experienced already: it picks you up only to bring you right back down extremely quickly. The surge of energy you experience might be high, but it’s also short-lived.
So, we need to rewire our brains and first of all, our behavior, to reach for smarter, carb-rich foods that will give us that needed energy boost without the unhealthy and energy-destroying side-effects. Find sugar alternatives that you’ll genuinely enjoy, and that will keep you full and happy, such as a fresh fruit salad, nibbling on fresh vegetables, or a healthy protein bar.
Timing and balance still matter
Eating a single healthy meal in a span of a week won’t do you much good. The deal with healthy eating is one of consistency, and it requires persistence and dedication on your part. That said, you need to brace yourself for introducing proper, long-term changes to how you eat and what you eat if you want to see real, measurable results in your mood and energy levels.
Prepare a meal plan that will encompass all of your nutrition needs for the week, prepare a shopping list to match it, and then set aside a day per week to prepare your meals in advance. This will help you stay on the right track, avoid reaching for unhealthy treats, and fuel yourself with food that will contribute to your long-term wellbeing.
It boils down to choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods that are suitable for your digestive tract, and you’ll be able to feed your mind, strengthen your emotional balance through your hormones and healthy nutrients, and build a lifestyle based on self-care. After all, eating properly is one way to love yourself and appreciate your body and your mind through consuming well-balanced meals. This is a perfect opportunity to refine how you treat yourself, and find the right foods that will ensure your longevity and mental health as well as overall resilience.