When people are discussing solutions to mental health problems, they are often quick to cite therapy as the only solution. Therapy is certainly a valid solution to help people overcome mental health issues, but what if you want to prevent them from happening in the first place?
Many folks are saying that diet can be an important factor in helping to prevent mental health problems and to improve mental health overall. How could something this simple be so overlooked? Is there any evidence for this? In this article, we’ll describe some of the evidence that suggests that a good diet can help to improve your mental health.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Mental Health
To say that having a good diet will improve your mental health is perhaps a bit erroneous. The reality is that having a poor diet will interfere with your mental health. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have a pretty bad diet.
As you probably know, the human body requires plenty of different vitamins and minerals to function. These nutrients are understood to improve physical health, but many people underestimate their importance for helping to promote good mental health. Vitamins and minerals are just as important for keeping your brain in shape as your body.
And, unless you’re getting all your servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting healthy servings of grains and legumes (not processed pasta or bread – these are actually bad for our mental health.
What? Yeah, that’s right: evidence has shown that bread is one of the most harmful foods for our mental health. Bread contains highly processed forms of wheat gluten. Gluten is a dense, sticky form of protein which can essentially ‘clog up’ and slow down our cognitive function.
But, more than that, nutritional deficiencies can cause serious problems. If you’re not getting all your healthy foods in, then you’re going to be nutritionally deficient. Some of the most important nutrients for mental health include:
- B complex vitamins. B complex vitamins improve mental health by helping to ensure that the nervous system can function properly, and by making sure that the brain can effectively communicate messages. B vitamins also encourage oxygen to flow through the body and to the brain, which can nourish it and improve its function.
- Magnesium is a mineral that’s important for helping to relieve stress. People deficient in magnesium are known to be more likely to develop anxiety.
- Zinc is another mineral that is important for mental health. One of the most important roles of zinc is helping the body produce hormones like testosterone. Without zinc, you’ll develop hormonal imbalances, which can often manifest as emotional or mental problems like stress and instability.
Eating for Mental Health
If you want to develop a diet for optimizing your physical and mental health, it’s simple: get a lot of fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, and drink a lot of water.
Just as important is cutting out foods that are bad for us. This means to avoid sugar as often as possible, don’t eat any processed foods like bread or pasta, and avoid foods like red meat. Furthermore, avoid drinking alcohol.
One of the best ways to figure out your particular nutritional needs is to see a nutritionist. Alternatively, you can get a doctor to test your blood to identify what sort of deficiencies you might have, and then correct those deficiencies by eating food rich in the nutrients you’re lacking.
If you’re unable to get the foods that you need, the last resort would be to take vitamin and mineral supplements. However, your body can make much better use of these vitamins and minerals if you get them from whole food sources.
Diet is a very important aspect of our mental health. If you follow a healthy diet plan and make sure that you get enough exercise and follow a regular sleep schedule, your chances of developing mental disorders are going to be much lower.