by Deanne Alban
Most of us eat for taste, convenience, our waistlines, or our personal philosophy, but rarely do we consider how the food we eat impacts our mental health. The medical establishment considers the brain to be something totally separate from the body. Doctors rarely make the connection between diet and mental health. However, nutrition may be even more important for your brain than for the rest of you. It’s a hungry little organ weighing in at just three pounds, yet your brain uses 20 percent of your daily energy expenditure.
There is ample evidence that symptoms of anxiety, depression, and attention disorders, and degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s can be dialed up or down depending on the food consumed. There are many ways food affects the brain. There are basic nutritional requirements that must be met to maintain the health of the brain. These nutrients are needed to protect and repair existing brain cells and create new ones.
Nutrients also provide the raw materials to form neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA and dopamine, which are responsible for happiness, the ability to relax, and motivation. Foods can also contain substances like sugar and food additives that cause the brain harm. And some foods trigger reactions in only some people. Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities play a role in some conditions. A surprising example of this is the discovery that wheat is linked to schizophrenia.
While there are too many correlations between diet, nutrients, and mental health to cover them all in one article, here are some notable examples that illustrate how certain foods and specific nutrients can impact your mental health and well-being.