Feeding Your Brain for mental health
Feeding is as key as life itself. We must however know that when we eat, we must not just eat for growth but also for our mental health.
Every October 10 is celebrated as World Mental Health Day and this year, the theme is : ‘Dignity in Mental Health-Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All’.
Studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics. Other studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical “Western” diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Scientists account for this difference because these traditional diets tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and to contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They are also void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the “Western” dietary pattern.
In addition, many of these unprocessed foods are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics. Fermentation uses bacteria and yeast to convert sugar in food to carbon dioxide, alcohol, and lactic acid. It is used to protect food from spoiling and can add a pleasant taste and texture.
This may sound implausible to you, but the notion that good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs, but that they also affect the degree of inflammation throughout your body, as well as your mood and energy level, is gaining traction among researchers. The results so far have been quite amazing.
My focus however is on feeding your brain. In the light of mental health first aid for all.
The following foods can help boost your mental health
Brown rice is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin when the body has adequate vitamins B1, B3, B6 and folic acid. Serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter, plays an important role in brain activities such as learning and memory.
When serotonin levels in the brain are low, you may experience depression, insomnia or aggressive behavior.
Other foods rich in tryptophan that will help increase serotonin levels include peanuts, cottage cheese, meat and sesame seeds.
The yolks of eggs specifically contain choline, a building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Other foods that are good sources of choline include soybeans, wheat germ, whole wheat products and organ meats. Essential for thought and memory, acetycholine helps the brain store and recall memories, concentrate and keep up focus. It is also important for muscle coördination. Insufficient acetylcholine results in reduced cognitive capacity and memory decline.
Milk, yogurt and cheese contain tyrosine, an amino acid your body uses to produce norepinephrine. Bananas, avocados, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and lima beans are other good sources. It facilitates alertness, concentration and motivation.
A good source of protein, fish contain the amino acid tyrosine as well. When tyrosine levels in the brain and blood are high, neurons also manufacture the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives you a mental boost by promoting alertness and activity.
Foods such as vegetables and fruits are also in this category.
Dopamine is important for healthy assertiveness as well as proper nervous and immune system functioning.
A cup of cooked spinach contains about 200 micrograms of folic acid, which is necessary for the body to make use of certain amino acids. By getting enough folic acid, you can help ensure your body will be able to synthesize norepinephrine and serotonin. Folic acid deficiency has been linked to depression.
Conclusively, all our brains need to keep working for us to stay alive and if this must happen, then we must also keep feeding our brain
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Also published on Medium.