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Mental Health and Nutrition: What You Need To Know

Mental Health and Nutrition: What You Need To Know

When it comes to mental health, there are a multitude of contributors: sleep, stress, life circumstances. One often overlooked contributor is nutrition. It could be that you reach for junk food in seeking comfort, or that you skip meals because you are so stressed. Perhaps you reach for the closest processed snack or a glass of wine. There is no shame in what you reach for, we each have our ways of coping that feel like they provide comfort. Bringing knowledge and awareness to your habits is key to making shifts that will greatly improve your mental health and nutrition.

More and more research is coming out around how nutrition and mental health are related. More often than not, western doctors will prescribe a pill or a procedure before ever looking into someone’s lifestyle, diet, and habits. Nutrition is rarely mentioned in medical schools. While western approaches to medicine are incredibly needed, so too are many other factors that get overlooked, causing the root of the issue to never be addressed.

Image is of bars of chocolate and two cinnamon sticks, both of which correlate to mental health and nutrition.
Photo by Elena Leya

Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between mental health and nutrition:

  • Dodge your food triggers. Make sure that you know both any food allergies or sensitivities. Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods, and your overall symptoms in general. Let your body’s wisdom guide you, it will surely let you know in both physical and mental manifestations if the foods you are eating don’t sit well with you.
  • All about balance. Try following the 80/20 rule. 80% of the foods you consume would be unprocessed, whole foods. The other 20% are up to desire, leaving room for those late night cheese fries. This will ensure you are getting proper nutrients, and eating some foods that warm your soul.
  • Omega-3’s for the win. Research has shown that the presence of adequate omega-3 levels are essential to nervous system and brain health. They also are an important antioxidant and are anti-inflammatory. Not only are omega-3’s preventative, but effective when included in treatment of disorders such as ADHD, bipolar, and depression.
  • Bring on the good bugs. Gut microbiome is becoming one of the most talked about factors contributing to mental health. Because 70-90% of your serotonin is produced in your gut, it proves to be pretty significant to mood.
  • Inflammation be gone. Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from toxins, viruses, bacteria, and pathogens. Eliminating high amounts of inflammatory foods from your diet and instead opting for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been proven to reduce your likelihood for worsened mental health. A diet high in refined starches, artificial trans-fats, refined sugars, and simple carbohydrates will increase inflammation.

The relationship between mental health and nutrition is becoming increasingly more widely known and studied. At this point in history, when processed foods are more readily available than whole, fresh foods, and mental health is at an all time crisis level, we must educate ourselves on the ways we can take action to protect and care for our health. To further support your relationship between mental health and nutrition, read these articles on mindful eating and intuitive eating.

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What shifts have you made to improve your mental health through nutrition? Message us @Maidenfolk on Instagram and let us know, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter below!

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