In order to stay as healthy as we can, we need to ensure that we’re always making healthy choices and be conscious of how we treat our bodies from both a mental and physical standpoint. This can mean doing things like getting regular exercise, getting adequate amounts of sleep each night, avoiding bad habits (such as smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol in excess), as well as having a diet that is rich in essential nutrients – including vitamins and minerals, proteins, healthy carbohydrates and fats, and water.
Eating well is fundamental for our overall health and wellbeing, as the healthier foods we eat, the less likely we are to develop serious health problems – including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even certain types of cancer. When we don’t eat healthy, there can be significant changes. For example, you might start to gain weight or find yourself feeling more fatigued and lacking the same level of energy you once had. Through making healthy meal choices, these are things that can be prevented.
Foods can also have a significant impact on your mood. This is because 90% of your serotonin receptors (which not only influence just your appetite but also influence other biological and neurological processes including memory, anxiety, cognition, and learning, just to name a few) are found in the gastrointestinal tract, and there is two-way communication that occurs via the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve, which is responsible for various internal organ functions, including digestion, as well as vasomotor activity. Our brains are also always on, which means they constantly require fuel, which we get from the foods that we eat. If you’ve ever heard the famous saying, “You are what you eat,” this is actually true, as the foods you put into your body affects the structure of your brain and the way it functions. If you’re constantly eating foods that are high in unhealthy fats or high in sugar, your brain is going to begin to feel deprived of those essential healthy nutrients that I mentioned before.
While you may not initially be aware that some of the foods you’re eating are playing a role in your mental wellbeing, it’s important to start paying close attention to determine how the different foods you eat make you feel. One day to do this is by giving your diet a do-over, so to speak, by cutting out things like sugar and processed foods from your diet – also known as an elimination diet – and then slowly start to reintroduce different foods, one by one, and see how you feel. If a certain food you’ve reintroduced makes you feel unhealthy in any way, eliminate that food again – and while it’s okay to indulge in a treat every now and then, it’s important to be mindful and not over-indulge, as this is where trouble begins. It’s also important to be aware of what foods are good for your mental health, vs. which foods are bad and should be avoided, as outlined below.
• Whole grains
• Leafy Greens
• Sweet potatoes
• Green tea
• Refined white starches (rice, bread, crackers)
• High caffeine intake
• Fried foods
• Fast food
• Processed meats