In these uncertain times, keeping up with your mental health is imperative to living a balanced life. In honour of mental health month, which runs for October, we will explore how nutrition affects our mental health. As a Sydney plant-based nutritionist, I honestly cannot express enough the importance and power of healthy eating and nutrition upon our moods, and in turn, our mental health. here to edit.
To put it simply, what we eat affects our gut microbiome. Serotonin, the wonderful hormone responsible for the feeling of happiness, is predominantly produced in our gut via a healthy gut microbiome. Studies also show that a healthy gut microbiome has a regulatory effect on the neurotransmitter dopamine which is associated with feelings of pleasure, happiness and motivation. So basically a healthy gut microbiome = healthy, happy moods. How good is that?
So what do we want in our foods?
We understand it’s hard to know what to look for in foods. There are so many options, and sometimes, we just simply don’t have time to find what works for us. Here at Planting Nutrition, we believe in preventative health and implementing plant-based eating to achieve positive mental health. From the experience of a Sydney vegan nutritionist, below is a simple list of the main components to look for in food.
Unsaturated fats found in algal oil, ground flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, avocado and hemp seeds have anti inflammatory effects and are shown to support heathy mood regulation by reducing chronic inflammation that can affect communication and neurotransmitter function within the brain. On the other hand, saturated fats such as those found in animal fats, dairy and lard are associated with inflammation. This impairs healthy moods by both triggering an immune response and inducing brain inflammation associated with mood disorders.
Ah, carbs! I’m sure we’ve all heard of this one! But did you know they are nothing to be scared of? Carbohydrates are actually responsible for fuelling your energy levels and preventing those mood impairing energy slumps. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) increase the risk of depression and anxiety through rapid increases and decreases in blood sugars. Therefore implementing a low GI diet will help improve your mental health.
Low GI carbohydrates are found in complex whole grains such as barley, brown rice, wholegrain sourdough, wholemeal pasta & buckwheat, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils and fruits and vegetables. High GI carbohydrates to minimise include processed white bread, white rice, pastries, processed breakfast cereals, cakes and lollies. Complex carbohydrates are also higher in fibre which feeds a healthy gut microbiome to further support healthy moods as discussed above.
Plant proteins have an unsaturated and healthier fat profile compared to most saturated fat animal proteins and are rich in fibre. Two good reasons to switch your chicken for chickpeas and beef for black beans. Plant based protein includes tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, chickpeas, lentils and nut & seeds.
Other foods to consider.
Avoid those foods that induce fatigue which can affect moods including refined sugar and alcohol. (Alcohol can actually impair a healthy gut microbiome). Even though we crave these foods when depressed for the instant dopamine release, we feel worse later. What about caffeine? Well it affects everyone differently depending on how you metabolised it. If it leaves you feeling anxious, it's better left alone. If not, enjoy your one to two cups per day.
OveralI I hope this has helped you understand the benefit for a healthy diet for positive mental health.
Here at Planting Nutrition, I am a Bondi based vegan nutritionist dedicated to tailoring nutritional advice to each unique client.
So if you’re struggling with your current mental health or diet, and want more insight into plant-based nutritional benefits, contact me today!
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