In our busy lives, sometimes we end up ignoring mental health. But mental health is just as important as physical health. There are many ways you can look after your health, especially through nutrition. As health and nutrition are closely connected, you can eat good food for health. This is true not just for physical health but also mental health. Eating right can help you stay mentally fit!
What is Mental Health?
Mental health means our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Good mental health is critical because:
- It affects how we handle responsibilities at home and work
- It allows us to make right decisions in life
- It guides how we interact with people around us
When mental health suffers, you can face problems like:
- Feeling tired, stressed, or anxious all the time
- Having conflicts with people
- Developing physical problems because of mental problems
Some common mental health problems you might encounter are stress, anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders, or ADHD. While these issues sometimes need medical intervention, there are things you can do to boost your mental health.
How to be mentally healthy
There are many good practices through which you can manage your mental health and wellbeing:
- Yoga and Meditation
- Proper mental health diet
- Regular exercise
- Good sleep
- Staying positive
Finding time to exercise or meditate is a big challenge in our busy lives. Getting the right support and understanding can also be a challenge. Lack of information and awareness further affects management of mental health. Some of these challenges are difficult to tackle. But one thing you can control is eating good food for health, especially mental health. Health and nutrition are inseparable and eating right for your mind is in your own hands.
How does nutrition affect mental health?
A nutritious diet can help you feel more alert, help you relax, think clearly, and cope with stress.
Eating healthy food also gives you indirect benefits, as physical fitness also keeps you mentally fitter. (Read our post on Eating Right for a Healthy Mind And Healthy Body to find out more about eating for physical and mental well-being).
On the other hand, when your diet is poor, you can feel tired, irritable, anxious, and stressed. Your decision-making, reaction time, or social skills can be negatively affected.
Good Foods for Mental Health
Your brain and nervous system depend on certain nutrients for functioning healthily. Here are some foods that boost your general mental condition:
- Complex carbohydrates – These keep you full and have higher nutritional value that boosts mental activity. Examples include fibre-rich vegetables and fruits, quinoa, and millets.
- Lean proteins – These give you energy to think quickly and stay mentally alert. Some examples are chicken, meat, fish, eggs, soybean, nuts, and seeds.
- Fatty acids – These are essential for healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system. Foods with fatty acids include fish, nuts, eggs, and flaxseeds.
What’s more, some food items can help you fight stress, anxiety, and depression. A few of those are:
- Green leafy vegetables and fruits – These have micronutrients that protect your brain from stress, anxiety, and depression. Bananas, berries, spinach, and kale are some good examples.
- Legumes – These are a rich source of protein that helps in wear and tear of the mind and body. These are some of the best foods that reduce anxiety. Examples include lentils, beans, and peas.
- Probiotics – These keep your brain healthy by keeping your gut healthy (as the nervous system connects the two). Foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, sourdough, and buttermilk.
However, it is not enough to eat the best foods for mental health. You should also avoid some foods:
- Sugary foods – These can cause inflammation in the brain and body, which may add to mood disorders. Examples include soft drinks, sweets, or cookies. Go for fresh fruits instead.
- Processed foods – Foods like chips or farsan can slow down mental activity and cause health issues that add to your stress, anxiety, and depression. Instead, opt for healthy snacks like Health Nut’s Soya Splits.
- High-fat foods – These foods (like fries, ice-cream, or instant noodles) have harmful ingredients that hurt mental health. You can swap these for popcorn, roasted vegetables, or frozen yogurt.
Some Tips for Eating for Mental Health
Here are a few more handy tips for a mental health diet
- Practise mindful eating to avoid over/undereating, and stress eating
- When shopping for food, use a list of healthy items and stick to the list
- Avoid eating in front of the television
- Eat a variety of different healthy foods so that you don’t get bored of your diet
- If strapped for time, choose a nutritional completer like Health Nut’s Meal In One
Mental health is as critical as physical health but is often ignored. You need to care for your mental health to function well at home, work, and in the larger society. To stay mentally fit, you can take many steps, including eating the right food. Diet and mental health have a very strong connection, so eating right is the first step to good mental health.