Have you re-enrolled for Medicaid? Learn more about changes that could affect your coverage.
Call 24/7 for a no-cost Confidential Assessment at (888) 464-1498
Health Library

What You Eat Impacts Your Mental Well-being

Food and Mental Health, What You Eat Impacts Your Mental Well-being

Mental health is a complicated and fascinating element of life. Your mental health is influenced by many factors you encounter on a daily basis–including food

You may know that mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety are complex disorders brought on by various factors, such as the environment you’ve been exposed to and even genetics. What researchers also understand is that diet can contribute to your mental health as well.

In studies, including one published in the science journal Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers have noted that by improving nutrient intake can improve mental health disorder symptoms. That doesn’t mean changing your diet will banish depression or control post-traumatic stress disorder. It can, however, strongly influence your health and overall well-being.

What’s the Connection Between Diet, Nutrition, and Mental Well-being?

Your brain is a working organ, one that has to function 24 hours a day to meet your needs. To work, it absolutely needs nutrition. To work well, it needs access to the healthiest of nutrition. If you don’t provide your brain with the highest quality of fuel, its ability to operate at its best is limited.

One of the factors that contributes to this is serotonin. It’s a type of neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Nearly all of the serotonin produced in your body occurs in the gastrointestinal tract.  That’s where millions of nerve cells called neurons exist. The good bacteria in your gut help to create an incredible intestinal microbiome, one that helps to support the function of neurons. Where does that good bacteria come from? A well-balanced diet.

When you don’t have enough good bacteria present, it leads to inflammation throughout the body as the bad bacteria infiltrate. (Good bacteria actually work to reduce the presence of bad bacteria). Inflammation is what leads to disease and can also impact mental health.

Tips for a Balanced Lifestyle

Regulating what you eat could help you control good bacteria production and the right amount of serotonin production. You don’t have to eat just vegetables to make that happen. These tips create a balance between nutrition and mental health support.

  • Focus on the quality of food you’re consuming

A study found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet, one that focuses on whole foods, fish, and healthy fats, had a 42 to 73% less risk of suffering depression. This diet focuses heavily on unprocessed grains, vegetables, fruits, and seafood, reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of sugar and red meat consumed.

Moving your diet closer to this could help to improve brain health. That doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy ice cream again. It just means that most of the time you’re following a healthy diet.

  • Recognize the negative impact of sugar

After a long, hard day, the first thing you may be doing is reaching for a pint of ice cream. That’s your brain seeking out a drug to help create positive feelings. Sugar is a type of instant gratification. It can create a sudden boost of energy and act as a type of trigger for the opiate receptors in the brain. It triggers those pleasure centers for a few moments, creating a type of addictive behavior over time.

Sugar, though, is problematic for health. Not only does it offer no nutritional value, but it also can increase inflammation in your body and damage cells. Ultimately, it also impacts your body’s ability to produce serotonin for balanced mental health. Reducing how much you take in can be one of the most important strategies you take.

Simple Steps to Take Today

How can you use food to help support mental health? Consider these tips you can put into place today:

  • Make better food choices at every meal. Go for the fish instead of the burger. Choose a vegetable instead of fries. One improvement to every meal makes a difference.
  • Make time to cook a meal instead of using processed foods.
  • Reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeine, both of which can worsen your mental health. Remember, reducing doesn’t mean eliminating.
  • Look for whole foods instead of gimmicks. Any type of processed “healthy” bar or shake is going to lack nutrients. Instead, eat an apple.
  • Go back to basics. Look for simple foods that offer wholesome goodness.

Getting the Support Your Need for Mental Health Is Key

Your diet plays a role in your mental health, but it’s not the only component of the process. At Willow Creek Behavioral Health, we work very closely with our clients to create a comprehensive plan to address their unique needs.

Learn more about our mental health treatment in Green Bay, WI, by contacting Willow Creek Behavioral Health now.

Learn more

About programs offered at Willow Creek Behavioral Health

Scroll to Top