The brain is the platform for the mind and therefore the platform for your mental health. Mental well-being is the main component of optimal health and is a status that individuals can manage stress from daily living and make positive achievements  (Lim, Kim, Kim, & Lee, 2016).

How the foods you eat affect how you feel?

Let’s think about it. Your brain is always working hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects affect how we feel, think and behave (Selhub, 2018). Mental disorders, which are the same as psychiatric disorders, are clusters of syndromes which disturb an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation or behavior.

The systematic review conducted by O’Neil et al. (2014) showed that unhelpful dietary patterns such as higher intake of foods with saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and processed food products are linked to poorer mental health in children and adolescents.

From biology view, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions (Selhub, 2018).

What Should I Eat?

EATING BALANCED meals on a regular basis and CONSUMING NUTRIENTS FOR MENTAL HEALTH including omega-3 FAs, antioxidants, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 at recommended dietary intake levels are suggested.

  • Folate, vitamin B6 and B12 are parts of homocysteine metabolism, and deficiencies of these nutrients result in increased blood levels of homocysteine, which aggravate mental health (Smith et,al).
  • Omega-3 FAs’ action on brain is mainly as a structural and functional component of membrane phospholipids in brain and retina. The brain is vulnerable to oxidative stress because it has lipid-rich area especially in neuronal membrane and is metabolically active. Tight balance between oxidative stress and antioxidant system is required to maintain the structural integrity and optimal functions of brain (Berk.M et al.,).
  • Vitamins A, C, and E are major non-enzymatic antioxidants in foods, and there are emerging evidences that these antioxidant vitamins are protective against cognitive decline and mental disorders(Lim et al., 2016).
  • Studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics.

The UK government’s dietary recommendations are put together with the guidance and advice from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) and its successor since 2000, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) .It outlines the proportions of the main food groups that form a healthy, balanced diet (MHF, 2017):

  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates; choosing wholegrain versions where possible
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
  • Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day
  • Choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

Reference:

  • Bhatia P, Singh N. Homocysteine excess: delineating the possible mechanism of neurotoxicity anddepression. Fundam Clin Pharmacol 2015;29:522-8.
  • Hainsworth AH, Yeo NE, Weekman EM, Wilcock DM. Homocysteine, hyperhomocysteinemia and vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID). Biochim Biophys Acta 2016;1862:1008-17.
  • Lim, S. Y., Kim, E. J., Kim, A., & Lee, H. J. (2016). Nutritional Factors Affecting Mental Health, 5(3), 143–152.
  • MHF. (2017). Food for thought :Mental Health and nutrition briefing. Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved from mentalhealth.org.uk
  • Ng F, Berk M, Dean O, Bush AI. Oxidative stress in psychiatric disorders: evidence base and therapeutic implications. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2008;11:851-76.
  • Smith AD. The worldwide challenge of the dementias: a role for B vitamins and homocysteine? Food NutrBull 2008;29:S143-72.
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