Nutrition and mood are closely linked, with a poor diet often exacerbating symptoms of depression and anxiety and an improved diet often resulting in an overall improvement in mental health. Considering that we are what we eat, it is clear that our diet plays a pivotal role in emotional wellbeing. Our mood is largely determined by a complex network of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals. The neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mental health must remain at optimal levels in order to ensure healthy cognitive functioning and emotional wellbeing. The nutrients we consume have a direct impact on the production and availability of these essential molecules. For example, a diet deficient in essential fatty acids will hinder the synthesis of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood. Similarly, a diet low in other essential minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, can reduce the availability of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, an important chemical that is linked to positive psychological functioning.
It is also important to note that nutritional deficiencies and imbalances can directly impair physical health, leading to further psychological distress. Chronic pain and inflammation due to an inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids can cause significant distress, with some conditions resulting in the inhibition of healthy cognitive functioning. It is therefore crucial to ensure that the diet provides adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.
In order to improve mental health, it is important to provide the body with the essential nutrients necessary for healthy cognitive functioning and emotional wellbeing. Increasing the intake of whole-foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes is a great way to ensure that the body is receiving both macronutrients and vital micronutrients. It is also important to minimize the intake of processed foods, as they often lack essential nutrients and are high in sugar and unhealthy fats. In addition, dietary supplements can be used to correct any deficiencies and imbalances.
Last but not least, adequate hydration is essential for maintaining healthy mental health. Dehydration can lead to the reduction of cognitive performance and even confusion, which can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is therefore important to consume a minimum of 1.5 - 2 L of water per day.
Nutrition plays an integral role in mental health. An inadequate diet can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety and impair cognitive functioning, whereas a balanced diet high in whole-foods and low in processed junk provides the essential nutrients necessary for optimal psychological wellbeing.