Understanding the Link between Diet and Mental Health

It’s no surprise that our minds and bodies can influence each other in powerful ways. There is a unique duality to our brains being both an organ in our body and the holder of the looser concept of our ‘minds.’  Our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings may rest more in the concept of our minds, but they can be and often are influenced by the condition of our bodies. Many people have noticed that on days where they don’t eat breakfast or have a late lunch may be days where their mood is poor.  When our bodies don’t have enough fuel, or quality fuel, it can be hard for our minds to operate to their fullest capacity. 

Feeding our Minds

Food and nutrition are complicated topics. What we eat, how we eat, and when we eat are all influenced by a myriad of factors. For example, a highly active athlete generally requires more calories and may eat more than someone who is not engaged in that level of athletic activity.  Some people may have grown up eating certain foods, and find it difficult to branch out into others for cultural or comfort reasons. Some people are used to eating big meals with family, and others are used to eating in front of the tv, or curled up around a favorite book. Our attitudes around food are as varied as our families and our backgrounds, and sometimes these attitudes aren’t even apparent to us until we meet a friend, romantic partner, or roommate who has differing views. Paying attention to our beliefs around food can provide us additional insight into the role nutrition and food play in our lives.

For many teenagers, it can be tempting to rely on high-calorie, high-salt, high-sugar snacks instead of meals. These snack items, such as sodas, chips, and snack cakes, can be fast, convenient, tasty and socially acceptable to other teens. Teens may skip breakfast, have coffee for breakfast, or avoid eating lunch at school for reasons ranging from disliking the food to feeling awkward eating around others. It’s important to note that for adolescents, sometimes controlling what they eat can be one of the few forms of control they do feel they have over their experiences. Educating a teenager on the benefits of healthy food can be challenging if they are getting competing messaging about food and nutrition from peers, media, and their own cravings. It’s important to remember that it is natural to desire food that is high in calories, fat, salt and sugar. However, if these items are not part of a balanced diet, they can inadvertently give your brain poor fuel to operate at it’s ideal state, or contribute towards medical issues that can impact your health and well-being in other ways.

Final thoughts

Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of maintaining your body and mind. Eating enough vegetables, fruits, proteins, and nutrients will give your body the fuel it needs when dealing with your day-to-day activities. It’s important to consult with a doctor, nutritionist, or other medical professional to ensure you are nourishing yourself properly. Each person’s food needs will be unique to their own bodies and preferences. Getting regular checkups and being mindful about your eating can help improve your mood and allow you to better understand your own beliefs and feelings about eating. Contact us today for more information.

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