Mind Your Meal: How Your Eating Habits Affect Your Mental Health

Oct 29, 2020 05:02 PM EDT | By Kristine M. (staff@foodworldnews.com)

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Mind Your Meal: How Your Eating Habits Affect Your Mental Health

(Photo : Unsplash / Anthony Tran)

A growing research study suggests that your food choices and eating habits may have a profound effect on your mental health. 

Our brain needs nutrients to function well. While it is true that eating right helps to reduce the risk of physical health problems like diabetes and heart disease, it also can help us think clearly and feel more alert. Additionally, it improves concentration and attention span. 

On the other hand, a poor and inadequate diet often leads to fatigue, slow down reaction time, and impaired decision-making. In worst cases, this can aggravate an individual's mental health and may even lead to stress and depression. 

According to Web MD, more research on the close relationship between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract gives rise to a new concept called "nutritional (or food) psychiatry."

Psychiatrist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Columbia University, Drew Ramsey, MD, explains that diet can potentially be the most powerful intervention we have to improve a person's mental health and decrease their risk of mental disorders.

Your gut does more than you think

A study published in Harvard Health suggests that 95% of your serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.

An individual's gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells or neurons. This means that the digestive system doesn't just digest food but also guides a person's emotions since serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates appetite and sleep, controls moods, and inhibits pain.

Furthermore, the serotonin production and the function of neurons are influenced by the billions of "good" bacteria that make up the intestinal microbiome.

These good bacteria help protect the lining of the intestines, limit inflammation, improve nutrients absorption, and activate neural pathways that travel directly between a person's gut and brain.

Additionally, research information reveals that the gut and brain are physically linked via the vagus nerve. It is through this that they can send messages to one another.

As a result, the gut is given control over the emotional behavior in the brain. Meanwhile, the brain can also alter the type of bacteria living in a person's gut.

Minding Your Meals

Since many people don't pay close attention to their eating habits, experts recommend keeping a food journal.

Documenting how a person eats is a great way to gain insight into their eating habits and patterns. Moreover, paying attention to how a person feels when they eat is also essential. Additional healthy eating tips include the following:

  • Avoid processed snack foods, which can impair concentration. Steer clear of sugar-filled snacks, which lead to fluctuating energy levels.
  • To support your brain function, consume plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.
  • When hunger strikes, opt for healthy snacks like hard-boiled eggs, fruit, nuts, and baked sweet potatoes.
  • To avoid unhealthy impulse purchases, don't shop while hungry.
  • Create a healthy shopping list, and be sure to stick to it.
  • When eating, find a place to sit and relax. Remember to chew slowly and savor the taste and texture of the food. Avoid eating in front of the television, which can be distracting and cause overeating tendencies.

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