How to Eat Well for Your Mental Health & Immunity
- 6 mins read
- The Art of Nourishment
- Author 1
Your diet not only influences your energy levels but also your mood and overall immunity. The health of our immune systems is complex and relies on many factors, not on the intake of one specific food or nutrient. A diet limited in variety and nutrients can negatively affect the immune system. In addition, a diet high in red meat and refined sugar can upset the balance of healthy intestinal bacteria, contributing to chronic inflammation of the gut and reduced immunity.
Nutritionists suggest that instead of eating the same meals every day, you must eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients that strengthen your brain. To boost your mood and improve your memory and concentration you need to nourish your body with a healthy mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals.
Impact of nutrition
We all know that a poor diet can affect our physical health, but did you know it also affects our mental health and overall well-being? Your gut health is closely linked to the functioning of your brain, and the reverse is also true. This is because the brain and gastrointestinal (GI) system shares a connection, where signals from the brain and gut are directly intercepted by both sides. Poor mental health can negatively impact the functioning of your digestive system. Where anxiety and depression can bring about loss of appetite or a leaky gut. Alternatively, your diet can influence your mood, where a nutrient-rich meal can help you feel energetic, calm, happy, and even alert. Similarly, a diet that is high in processed foods and unhealthy fats can leave you feeling lethargic, tired, or stressed out. Over time, consuming a diet that lacks nutrients will create an imbalance in your gut microbiome and reduce your body’s ability to curb inflammation and combat illnesses. Get to know the do’s and don’ts of nourishing your immune system.
Consume Raw Fruits and Vegetables
It has been proven that eating more fruits and vegetables can lead to greater levels of curiosity, creativity, and engagement. Carrots, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, apples, bananas, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are just a few examples. Veggies such as spinach, lettuce, green beans, and broccoli are best when they’re raw. When cooked, these vegetables lose beneficial vitamin C, thus decreasing their nutritional value.
Raw fruits and vegetables provide greater micronutrient levels than processed foods. They also contain plenty of vitamins like vitamins C and E that reduce inflammation and improve mental health. Therefore, choosing a diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables over processed foods is sure to benefit your body and mind.
- Complex carbohydrates:
Quinoa, millet, beets, and sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber and digest slower. They help stimulate the production of serotonin, which helps boost your mood.
- Lean Proteins:
Protein forms the basis of immune system powerhouses such as antibodies and immune cells. Adding more proteins to your diet can be beneficial to your mental wellbeing and immunity. A plant-based diet rich in legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and whole grains is good for you and the planet. Avoid processed meats as this can increase your risk of cancer and other health disorders.
- Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in treating mood disorders naturally. You need fatty acids to maintain a healthy nervous system and brain. Nuts and seeds like chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds are good sources of plant-based fatty acids.
Avoid Processed Foods
Foods that have been processed pose a major threat to our health. Eating processed foods stimulates the feel-good centers in your brain, leaving you with unhealthy cravings. The more you consume processed foods the more you crave them over nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Processed foods and sugar can cause low-grade inflammation which can lead to various chronic diseases throughout the body and brain. They are linked to several mood disorders including anxiety and depression. If you want to stop craving unhealthy food, you need to plan your meals and stock your pantry with healthy food and ingredients.
Practice Mindful Eating
As a result of an abundance of food choices around us, we rarely think twice about what we eat. Many of us mindlessly binge while watching television, socializing with friends, or working. Planning your diet is a key step in ensuring a well-balanced and nutritious meal.
The Japanese people of Okinawa have long maintained a reputation for nurturing extreme longevity. Their secret is simple: Hari Hachi Bu. This means that they eat only till they are 80% full. This practice is a mindful way to ensuring that you do not eat too much and over-indulge. This also enables them to consume fewer calories every day which aids in weight loss. The practice leans less towards “I’m full” and more towards “I’m no longer hungry”.
Sometimes stress and anxiety also cause you to overindulge. To avoid stress-eating, it is important to concentrate on what is bothering you. This will help you come up with a solution or divert stress to more productive activities. To avoid undereating, consider eating five or six small meals instead of three large ones.
As with other organs, the brain is affected by what you eat and drink. There is no one nutrient or eating plan that will help you boost your mental health. However, a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle can help you remain mentally strong.