According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety are among the common mental disorders people suffer from. Globally, over a hundred million individuals are suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. In the United Kingdom alone, the statistics report published in 2017 shows that about 1 in 4 people in the UK experience these mental health disorders as well.
Given these overwhelming figures, it is essential to raise mental health awareness. After all, gone are the days when we considered health as only about the state of our physical body. Today, taking good care of our mind is also a must!
The Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the UK, shared a helpful list of activities that improve one’s mental health condition. According to the organisation’s site, sometimes discussing one’s feelings can do wonders in coping with the problems disturbing our inner peace. Also, exercise releases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins that trigger a positive attitude in our body.
But did you know that eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants is not only good for your body? Recent studies show that our brain needs nutritious food to stay healthy as well!
According to Lakhan and Vieira (2008), authors of Nutritional Therapies for Mental Disorders, people suffering from mental disorders such as depression and anxiety lack certain nutrients. Mainly, these essential nutrients are B vitamins, minerals, amino and omega-3 fatty acids.
Find out how much volume of truth the saying “You feel what you eat” rings by reading the discussion below!
1. B VITAMINS (B6, B9, B12)
It is no secret that taking vitamin B does wonders for our body. It not only helps combat diseases such as heart disease and arthritis, but B vitamin is also responsible for preventing congenital neurological disabilities. In addition, it also plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen in our blood.
But aside from these wonders, a study exploring the effects of administering a high dose of vitamin B-complex on workers for 90 days shows how B vitamins help in reducing stress. In the study involving 60 participants, those who were given a high dose of vitamin B-complex experienced less confusion and depression than those who were not.
B complex vitamins are found in citrus fruits, almonds, meat, whole grains, and dairy products.
2. MINERALS (MAGNESIUM)
There is nothing too wrong about experiencing stress and negative feelings from time to time. However, daily exposure to stress increases the cortisol or the stress hormone in our body. Accumulating high levels of cortisol brings nothing but bad news to our body and mind. This effect reduces one’s life expectancy by lowering the defences of our immune system, while also increasing one’s risks of developing depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
Fortunately, minerals such as magnesium help in preventing stress hormones from kicking in action. Magnesium does not only reduces the release of cortisol, but it also helps the blood-brain barrier that prevents stress hormones from penetrating our brain. (Murck, 2002)
Foods such as green leafy vegetables, raw cacao, nuts and seeds are rich in Magnesium.
3. AMINO ACIDS
Hailed as the building blocks of life, amino acids play an important role in keeping our body and mind well all the time. For instance, a sufficient amount of amino acid is crucial in maintaining the perfect balance of our brain chemistry. Thus, when one suffers from an amino deficiency, our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are affected as well.
From time to time, different studies have shown that low levels of amino acids lead to a string of mental health disorders such as depression, chronic sadness, and even anger management issues.
For example, GABA (a form of amino acid) is responsible for keeping our nerves calm and collected, while Tyrosine (another form of amino acid) helps in producing Dopamine which is a feel-good hormone that boosts our energy levels. Besides, the lack of amino acids also affects our cognitive abilities such as maintaining focus and attentiveness.
Eggs, beans, legumes, broccoli, avocado, grains, and blueberries are a good source of amino acids.
4. OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Our body experiences inflammation from time to time as a result of our immune system’s healing process. However, everything that is too much is harmful to our health. Chronic inflammation may lead to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and even Alzheimer's.
However, aside from the dangerous diseases mentioned above, chronic inflammation also damages one’s mental health. According to Dr Charles Raison, chronic inflammation leads to the development of depression, anxiety, and fatigue which drains one’s social energy.
Thankfully, Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly, EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve such mental health disorders.
You may get your healthy dose of Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oils and plant oils.
Mental health disorders may be invisible to the naked eye. Nonetheless, it is a disease that needs immediate attention. More than feeling blue, mental health disorders is found to increase the risk of acquiring other life-threatening illnesses. Fortunately, we can prevent this by keeping a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet!
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT A NUTRITIONIST / DOCTOR BEFORE MAKING DRASTIC CHANGES TO YOUR DIET. THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HERE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS MEDICAL GUIDANCE OR ADVICE.