HEALTHY EATING FOR A HEALTHY MIND
Updated: Jun 19
What you eat affects your mood.
What you eat affects your performance.
What you eat affects your behavior & perception.
What you eat affects your overall cognitive function.
Balanced nutrition plays an important role in our mode of thinking and behavior, as the intake of foods affects our cognition, memory capacity, and emotions. Researches have proved that the food we eat affects the chemical composition of our brain, thus changing our mood.
Dietary nutrition, as the primary source of energy for human body functions, has direct or indirect effects on brain health. As people in modern society are burdened with tremendous pressure, the incidences of mental illnesses are increasing. Studies have shown that diet and nutrition play a significant role in the prevention and clinical treatment of depression. There is a growing body of health epidemiological evidence to prove the same too. A dietary pattern that has a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, olive good fats, nuts, fish, and whole-grain, and lesser intake of the commercial bakery, trans fat, and sugary dessert/drinks may reduce the risk of depression & anxiety. It is not surprising that nutrition affects cognition and mental health because our brain structure’s functioning ultimately depends on our nutritional input. The quality and type of food you eat can also affect your intellectual and mental capacity. Highly saturated fat intake has been related to cognitive deterioration while the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (walnuts, flax seeds, fish oil) has beneficial effects for optimum brain function as these fatty acids enhance memory, mood, behavior and reduce symptoms of depression.
Nutrients strongly influence both - the brain structure and its functions. They also affect neurodevelopment and neurotrophic functions. It has been recognized in recent years that diet and nutrition may be an important factor contributing to psychiatric issues which are hidden symptoms of major diseases or never identified. Moreover, by maintaining a proper diet and nutrition, psychiatric disorders can be prevented or treated as well. The brain has considerable neural, synaptic, and cognitive plasticity to adapt to not only neural damage but also to nutrition. There are numerous links between dietary energy balance and the brain. The brain has a key role in the regulation of energy intake and energy expenditure. It also has the energy intake and physical activity that influences its structure and function.
Vitamins B1, B6, B12, B9 (folic acid), D, Choline, Iron, and Iodine exert neuroprotective effects and improve intellectual performance. In parallel to that, antioxidants (vitamins C, E, A, Zinc) have a very important role in the defense against oxidative stress associated with mental deterioration and in the improvement of cognition. Currently, there is a high consumption of diets rich in saturated fats and refined sugars and low intake of fruits, vegetables, and water that can negatively affect mental health. Trace elements are of widespread neurological importance and yet are frequently overlooked in studies of nutrition and mental health. For example, Copper and Zinc have critical actions in neurodevelopment, neurotransmitter synthesis, energy metabolism, and antioxidant defense. Trace elements occur in many foods but in healthy individuals on a well-balanced diet, the risk of trace elements imbalance and subsequent cognitive impairment is low. Good sources of Copper are kinds of seafood, nuts, whole grains, cereals, legumes, while Zinc is abundant in dairy products. The contention that healthy food choices such as higher fruit and vegetable consumption are associated with greater happiness and well-being clearly contradicts the common belief that high-fat, high-sugar, or high-calorie foods taste better and make us happy while we are eating them.
Even though people may believe that snacking on “unhealthy” foods like ice cream or chocolate provides greater pleasure and psychological benefits, in reality, the consumption of “unhealthy” foods might not actually be more psychologically beneficial than other foods in the long-run.
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Written by - Mehvish Khan
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