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Registered Associate Nutritionist

Registered Associate Nutritionist

Guest Post- Mental Health Awareness Week, Enjoy!


 

Food, Exercise and Mental Health There are many different factors that contribute to a person’s mental health. Whether it be hormones, lifestyle, family circumstances, who we choose to surround ourselves with, etc., there is no shortage of contributing factors that can influence one’s mental health. While some things in life are more complicated to improve upon than others, I think that the food we choose to put into our bodies is one of the more immediate factors that we have more control over. While it is far from the “end all, be all” as far as mental health is concerned, diet does play a major role in a person’s state of mind. That, combined with a more active lifestyle, can have a huge improvement on a person’s mental state and over all feelings. According to the American Heart Association, “There are long term mental health effects to eating well. Research has shown that healthy choices, like the Mediterranean diet, full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can help keep depression at bay,5 stabilizing mood and keeping you out of the danger zone where it feels like only a cupcake will save the day.” If you think about it, we often make our food choices based on the kind of feelings we are having at the time. I often feel motivated to eat healthy when I am in a good mood and feeling energetic and determined. Whereas, if I am experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, my first impulse is to reach for something processed that has an inhuman amount of sodium or sugar (probably both). The ironic thing about that is the unhealthy foods only fight off the stress and anxiety for the time that I am consuming them. Once it is gone, so is the joy that it brought, and I find myself back at square one. On the other hand, when I choose to fill my diet with healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and natural ingredients, my mood is far more stable and controllable throughout the day. While mental health can be a touchy subject and I by no means believe diet to be a cure all, it is certainly a contributing factor that can be checked off your list as you narrow down what could potentially be triggering poor mental health. While improving your diet is already a very effective method of improving a person’s state of mind, when one combines that with exercise and a more active lifestyle, the mental boost that can be achieved is quite significant. Exercise causes the release of dopamine, which is one of the body’s “feel good” hormones. It also releases serotonin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate mood. Low serotonin levels are often found in people who suffer from depression. And those are just a couple of the hormones that are released during exercise. When you combine that with a healthy diet, you could see drastic improvements in your own mental health. Seeing as it is Mental Awareness Week, I can think of no better time to start working on improving your own mental health as well as encouraging those around you to do the same. With diet and exercise as the starting point, there is no where to go but up. Whether it’s choosing the banana over the brownie, the water over the soda, or simply cutting down on the consumption of unhealthy foods, there are so many ways we can improve our state of mind through something as basic as the foods we eat and the drinks we drink.

Comments

  1. Such a great post! As someone who deals with mental health on a daily basis, it is super important to watch what you eat because any imbalance could lead to you not feeling too great.

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