Mental health is an increasingly important consideration in todays fast moving world. It is affected by many factors, of which nutrition is one of the most important.
Did you know that essential fatty acids found in foods such as oily fish, nuts and seeds have been linked with improved mood as well as a reduced incidence of schizophrenia and depression? B vitamins such as B6, B12 and folic acid are needed in good amounts to prevent memory decline and reduced brain function. these vitamins are found in good amounts in meat and especially liver. Eggs, beans and lentils are also good sources. The minerals, magnesium, manganese and zinc also play an important role in the brain and need to be at adequate levels to ensure mental stability. These minerals are found in seeds, greens such as spinach and other brassica family members as well as beans.
As well as ensuring that you get the correct nutrients, to ensure mental health you need to avoid certain brain toxins. The 3 biggest causes of mental health problems ignoring traumatic events and stress are alcohol, smoking and recreational drugs. Alcohol, when taken in excess either as binge drinking or as heavy drinking over a prolonged period, is strongly associated with dementia and leads to a reduced memory for carrying out tassks at a later date. The malnutrition associated with chronic alcoholism leads to further brain damage. Smoking reduces the brains capacity through the effects of nicotine and the damage done by other chemicals in the smoke. Nicotine has been shown to reduce the growth of new brain cells, while the damage caused by other chemicals in smoke lead to an increased risk of strokes and reduced mental functioning. Finally recreational drugs depending on the specific poison chosen, are generally capable of causing damage more quickly than either alcohol or nicotine. For instance cannabis has been found to cause schizophrenia in many people and like smoking is associated with reduced blood flow to the brain, which inevitably reduces mental capacity.
To keep the brain in tip top condition it need to remain well hydrated and have a steady supply of glucose from the blood. This is best achieved by eating a low GI diet that contains foods such as protein and low GI carbohydrates such as beans, lentils and green vegetables. Drinking sufficient water is important as well. Sugary drinks such as fruit juices and fizzy pop will destabilize brain glucose supplies, while tea and coffee in moderation are probably OK for most and plain water will always be fine.
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