Maintaining a healthy mind not only improves resilience to mental stress and anxieties but allows the mind to work tirelessly and with unlimited resources of inspiration and creativity. While many people are turning to state-of-the-art nootropic stacks and advanced bio-hacking methods, the truth is that addressing the daily diet can be the best path to increasing brain power.
The diets we follow in our modern lifestyles can impact our health, behaviors, and even our thoughts. Even small conditions of the digestive system can alter mental capacity and cognitive function. Unhealthy eating can also generate unhealthy mindsets and the vicious cycle can end in conditions of poor physical health.
Most people today very rarely give their food choices much thought beyond what they do or do not feel like eating at the moment. But this is dangerous and some of the most popular foods in the world have very negative effects on the brain affecting the amygdala and causing addictions. Unhealthy food choices are leading to pandemic levels of malnutrition on a global scale.1
Unimaginable amounts of scientific and anecdotal evidence states that the foods we eat will be expressed in our health, for better or worse. But what are the biggest connections between diets and optimal mental health? Read on to learn more about how what you eat can affect your cognition.
Healthy Diets Resist Stress and Depression
Studies have been made comparing the typical diets we enjoy in the US and those diet plans existing in other cultures, like the traditional Japanese or Mediterranean diets. Studies have found that those living off the traditional Mediterranean or Japanese diet were a full 25% more resistant to stress and depression.2
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The reasons should be clear enough. Both of these diets are very high in raw, leafy veggies and fruits. Whole unprocessed grains and seafood are also included in large amounts. Furthermore, many of the foods in these diets use fermentation techniques as a form of food preservation and seasoning. This process is especially healthy as it converts sugars into more beneficial compounds like lactic acid, alcohol, or carbon dioxide.3,4
Another very important aspect of these two brain healthy diets is the reduced quantities of dairy products, sugars, refined foods, and sodium. As we will see further in the article, these ingredients are a recipe for madness.
Brain Chemicals in the Belly?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that the body uses to regulate sleep habits and stimulate the appetite. It also plays a role in mitigating the experience of pain, balancing moods, and aiding in a variety of other regulatory functions.
Interestingly enough, more than 90% of serotonin is produced in the intestines.5 The high amounts of nervous system activity in the gastrointestinal tract has caused scientists to wonder if the ancient theory about the seat of emotions being in the belly may not be that far off.6
Probiotics for Better Moods and Gut Health
More importantly, the production of neurotransmitters in the gut, as well as nervous activity in the entire tract, can be impacted greatly by the local bacteria life. Bacterial life in the gut forms an important part of the digestive process, protects the lining of the intestine, reduces inflammation, and fights the presence of “bad” bacteria.
When the digestive tract is supplied with healthy foods that keep intestinal life balanced, the brain is better supplied with the neurotransmitters it needs to remain balanced and healthy. One good way to improve gut flora is with the use of probiotics.7
The use of common probiotics to improve the health of the intestines has been found so effective for mental health it could be considered an antidepressant. This is because probiotics improves digestion which is responsible for assimilating the energy and materials the body uses from food sources. For example, vitamin B12 is used in every cell of the body, but only produced by specific varieties of gut bacteria.8
When the process is optimized, the entire body operates more efficiently and this leads to better health. The abundance of nutrients and available energy allows the body and mind to operate at full capacity.
Limit Unhealthy Foods Choices
Those who want to avoid poor mental health and bouts with depression will want to begin addressing dietary habits as soon as possible. Cutting out processed foods and foods that cause high-cholesterol may reduce the risk of depressive symptoms. While the exact connections are still inconclusive, medical science has reason to believe that processed foods typical of the western diet are contributing to mental illness.9,10
Get your Full Array of Vitamins and Supplementation
Finally, you may be eating healthy, taking your probiotics, and avoiding unhealthy processed foods but still need to adjust your diet for improved mental health. Unfortunately, many of the food sources we have come to rely on are simply not as nutritionally diverse as they were for millions of years of human evolution. Furthermore, certain medications can rob nutrients from the blood and contribute to deficiencies.
Fortunately, there are solutions in the form of vitamin supplementation. Taking the time to discuss your eating habits and lifestyle with a qualified nutritionist can provide you with some effective plans for meeting your nutritional goals and increasing mental health. A proper plan can help to maintain mental health and increase resilience to illness.11
Final Notes on Mental Health and Regular Diets
If you get the feeling that the information included in this article was important to your life and functionality, that’s because it is. You would not be overreacting if you headed down to your pantry right now on a righteous crusade for health. If you were to quit sugars, processed foods, and high-cholesterol foods from your diet and begin with natural foods and brain healthy choices, you will quite literally be a new person in two weeks’ time.
It seems like a daunting decision, but the rewards in mental health are worth the commitment.
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