Feed Your Head: How Eating Healthy Isn’t Just For Your Body Anymore
By Kurtis Bright
Eating For Your Mental Well-Being Is Just As Important As Eating For Your Physical Health
When it comes to the notion of “eating healthy,” most of us think about fats, proteins and carbs, and the resulting physical shape we end up with when we alter their ratios in our diet.
What goes in has a bearing on what results, of course: if the machine receives only soda, potato chips and deep-fried meat, you’re probably going to end up with a machine that doesn’t run optimally.
But there is a vital part of the machine that we often don’t think about, and it is one of the most important parts--at least it tells us it is: the brain.
If you consider the fact that our brains account for 20 percent of our daily energy expenditure, it is almost unfathomable that we don’t think more carefully about the ways various foods affect our mental functioning. Especially considering how much we now know about nutrition, you would think we would work harder to fine-tune our mental functioning through diet, at least to the same degree as we attempt fine-tune our physical functioning in the same way.
So how can we use our diet to push our mental health and brain function ever higher? Here’s a few proven ways:
- Something Fishy - They say that “fish is brain food” and it really is true. No single source provides so much in the way of omega-3 essential fatty acids, one of the most important nutrients for brain health. When it comes to mental health, having a deficiency in one of these omega-3s like DHA has been linked to depression, biopolar disorder and even schizophrenia. You can also use DHA to helps stave off age-related mental decline, and it lowers the risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Careful With That Coffee, Eugene - Recent studies have gone a long way to lighten the bad reputation of coffee, conferring on our favorite morning beverage health benefits such as reducing your risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. However sip your morning brew with a grain of salt: its caffeine is a double-edged sword. While its energy-enhancing properties are well-documented--and appreciated by millions on a daily basis--there is a proven and equally well-documented link between anxiety and caffeine. This association is so strong, in fact that the American Psychiatry Association recognizes “caffeine-induced anxiety disorder” in its standard guide. Studies have found that in inpatient settings, caffeine increased not only anxiety, but also hostility and psychotic symptoms, so go easy and know when to say when.
- Always B Closing - Deficiency in Vitamin B12 is still surprisingly common, affecting 40 percent of adults even in the 21st century when anything and everything has had supplements added. It shows itself as anxiety, depression, brain fog, memory loss and mental confusion. Left unchecked, vitamin B12 deficiency even progress to schizophrenia, so its nothing to scoff at. Since B12 is only found in animal sources, vegetarians and especially vegans are at risk of developing a deficiency. However, take care if you start popping vitamin supplements: sometimes simply upping your B12 intake isn’t enough--there can be absorption issues as well. Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of adults over 50 have trouble absorbing B12 from food. The good news is that if you take a bit more than you need, you’ll just excrete in your urine.