The Mind And Body Link
Eat, Drink And Be Merry!
You are what you eat, so the saying goes. Keep your mind sharp and in shape by feeding your body with the right nutrients to fuel your brain. Changes to our diet have been linked to rising cases of mental health. The typical person living in an urban environment consumes less fresh food and more saturated fats and sugars. A wrong diet can certainly aggravate the symptoms of mental illness like autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, while a healthy one can regulate the balance of neurochemicals in the brain.
What To Consume?
1. Essential Fatty Acids
Diets that are low in essential fatty acids essentially starve the brain and inhibit the activity of feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Scientists have noted that people suffering from high stress levels and depression have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. A diet rich in the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenioc acid (DHA) has been found to significantly reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as wel as lessen the likelihood of developing age-related cognitive diseases
Get it from: Omega-3 enriched eggs and seafood and fish like mackerel, salmon and herring.
2. Folic Acid
A recent study linked low folate levels (the compound in folic acid) with depression. They also found that people with low folate levels don’t respond as well to SSRI-type antidepressants.
Get it from: Asparagus and green leafy vegetables and beans like garbanzo, navy, kidney beans and lentils.
A reason to dust off that juicer? Fresh fruit and vegetable juices have been found to protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t peel off the skin though – the magic compound is polyphenol, found in the skin and peel of fruits and vegetables.
Get it from: Get plenty of polyphenol from juicing apple, grape and citrus juices.
4. Mediterranean Diet
It contains little meat and dairy products. As a result, it is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and dietary fibre. Some studies shown the Mediterranean diet can protect against degeneration of cognitive functions and a variety of diseases, including heart disease and some cancers.
Get it from: Legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables and olives.
5. Vitamin B
A daily dose of vitamin B derived from a balanced diet can stave away mental illness. A good source is green, leaft vegetables, which also contain other vital nutrients and essential minerals. A 2004 study by Harvard researchers that found that middle-aged women who ate green leafy vegetables, a rich source of B vitamins, preserved more cognitive abilities in their 70s, compared to women who did not eat the nutrient dense vegetables.
Get it from: Any green leafy vegetables. Take care not to stir-fry or boil vegetables, as these kill the nutrients. Try steaming instead.
What To Avoid?
Feel like drowning your sorrows? Well, you’ll know this – alcohol is a depressant, and using it to relieve anxiety or depression will have the opposite effect – you’ll feel worse, especially if you imbibe enough to cause a massive hangover the next day. Alcohol inhibits the absorption of many of the nutrients vital to brain health, apart from impairing brain function.
2. Caffeine and Sugar
While a little caffeine can promote alertness, too much can cause sudden surges and crashes in your blood sugar levels, which affect the supply to your brain. This is bad, because your brain needs a steady supply of glucose to perform at its peak.
3. Food High In Trans-Fat and Hydrogenated Fats
Cross out processed foods, deep fried food and processed cakes and biscuits. They contain bad fats that deplete your body of the good food, healthy fat. Trans fat also interfere with the cell membranes of your brain ability to receive impulses from neurotransmitters.
Eat Your Way To Better Mental Health
1. Maintain A Healthy Body Weight
Keep your body mass index measurement between 20 to 25. Having a high BMI has been linked by research to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Eat At The Right Times
If you stop and eat only when you have the time, or skip meals just to fit in more work or to run errands, then it might affect your short term brain function. Going for long periods between meals deprives the brain of the nutrients and energy it needs to function properly, affecting memory, concentration and mood.
3. Have A Breakfast
Jump start your day with a balances breakfast. Studies have shown that when students are given a healthy breakfast, it has a positive effect on their performance in school. Choose high-fibre, nutrient-dense foods.
Exercise is not just a great way to tune up your physical condition, but it can also help maintain your mental fitness. Moving and staying active has been recognized as an essential part of health for a long time, but recently, psychological benefits have been revealed. Research has found that regular physical activity can help in cases of mild depression. It can also reduce anxiety. Here’s how exercise helps:
- Exercise, whether aerobic or anaerobic, helps lessen the feelings of hopelessness, withdrawal and put an end to the inactivity that plague mental health sufferers.
- Negative moods like anxiety, tension, fatigue and anger are alleviated by exercise.
- The physiological benefits that come from exercise, via improved body tone, can improve the way you perceive your body and athletic ability, giving you a sense of higher self esteem.
- Exercise brings you into contact with other people, letting you socialize with others who share your interest whether it’s yoga or walking.