Mood Food: How Can Women Use Their Diet To Boost Their Mental Health?
How often do you find yourself reaching for a candy bar when you’re feeling low, or a bucket of ice cream? If there’s any truth to the saying that we are what we eat, then it’s best reflected in the notion of our mental health and the impact of food on our emotional and cognitive lives. Jane Green, for example, opted out of ice-cream and other sugar-packed sweets, and her anxiety issues dwindled.
Some of the more recent studies show that our gut microbiota has a powerful effect on our mental well-being, giving us yet another new connection between our menus and our mental health. While the short answer to the question above is a definite yes, the network of mutual influences of how we eat and how our eating habits affect our mental well-being is far more complex.
So, for a more in-depth understanding of this intricate connection, let’s delve deeper to see how your mood can be traced back, at least to an extent to your plate, and how you can use your menu to deal with your emotional and mental struggles.
Choose your carbs wisely
The recent war on carbs is by no means the most optimal way to treat our primary source of energy. To put it in perspective, our bodies, and our minds as well, utilize carbs as their key source of energy. That is why we get that instant pick-me-up with a candy bar, but that is also why you’ll hear your doctor tell you repeatedly to get your five-a-day of veggies and fruits, because they are loaded with carbs among other useful goodies. So, while the former may be more appealing temporarily, the quality source of carbs comes from Mother Nature.
Refined carbs such as sugar can give you a boost but only momentarily, while regular consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables gives your body and your mind all the building blocks of happiness. Think: quinoa, broccoli, your morning oatmeal, and tofu. If all else fails, look to Popeye for inspiration. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, plants will keep your belly and your brain happier than any store-bought candy bar.
Rely on protein for strength
When in doubt, ask athletes. They are brimming with energy and able to perform exceptional physical displays of strength. However, the protein-loving community of athletes benefits in other ways as well from relying on lean, versatile sources of this essential macronutrient. More specifically, focusing on branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs is vital for boosting your mood and your mind. Making sure your diet is brimming with branch chain amino acids not only helps you perform well at the gym, but helps your body produce more feel-good neurotransmitters, prevents fatigue, and eases symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Where can you find them, you ask? Lean protein sources are ideal, such as low-fat dairy, chicken, while red meat and fish are also loaded with them. Vegans and vegetarians can use a supplement instead so you can infuse your shakes with fruits and veggies guilt-free.
Know your fats
Before carbs became the modern-day scapegoat of all nutrition issues, fat was considered the bad guy, so to speak. Too many women would avoid consuming anything fatty, which in turn caused an entire array of health problems. For starters, our brain is made of 60% fat, making it the fattest organ we possess, so we are in desperate need of dietary sources of healthy fats to maintain proper brain function and ultimately stay healthy and happy.
Among so many things we can do to boost our brain power, such as ensuring proper sleep and exercising, what we eat is very high on that list. The healthy fats we should focus on are omega-3 fatty acids found in olive oil, fatty fish, as well as raw nuts and seeds. These fatty acids play a key role in how our bodies utilize other nutrients as well, and they are highly protective of our brains.
On the other hand, trans fats are the ones to avoid in our modern diets, which are linked to a wide range of health issues, including heart disease.
Micronutrients have a macro impact
In their desire to attain a certain look, most women focus on their macronutrient intake. But it’s vital to remember that vitamins and minerals (also known as micronutrients) are essential for our mental health too. Studies have shown that women who eat a predominantly “western” diet rich in fried and overly-processed foods have higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Calcium found in kale as well as kefir and yogurt, iron from lentils, and magnesium from spinach and almonds are all great ways to get the micronutrients that are essential to creating proper brain function and balance hormones.
These are merely examples of the range of micronutrients your mood and your mind benefit from, but it’s key to remember that variety and consistency will help you reach the best results.
Finally, women in different stages of their lives, as well as health, need a different approach to eating in order to see the desired effects of nutrition on their mental health. You should learn about the best foods for you, how you can infuse certain food groups into your diet.
Your body, as well as your mind, will be forever grateful!
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