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Nutrition and Mental Health

We all know that eating healthier foods improves our physical health. For instance, eating more fruits and veggies while also limiting processed foods can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.


But have you ever stopped to consider how your nutritional choices impact your state of well-being and mindset? 


Research is starting to paint the picture that, just as nutrition determines our physical health, it also plays a massive role in our state of mind.


The Importance of Nutrition In Mental Health


Hippocrates has once famously said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” As it turns out, he might have meant more than we realize. 


Newer studies illustrate that poor nutrition might increase the risk of depression. For instance, one reason could be poor nutrition’s direct impact: low energy, weight gain, and a feeling of guilt. But depression might also arise from the interaction between processed food and the brain. 


For instance, research finds a strong correlation between poor mental health and nutrient deficiencies. Specifically, the lack of essential vitamins and minerals and omega-3 fatty acids may lead to adverse effects.


The body is an intricate collection of systems that work together to keep us alive, healthy, and well. If one system can’t function optimally, it impacts the whole body. For instance, researchers have found strong links between the brain and the gut. Scientists also propose that brain inflammation is often a cause of poor mental health, which typically originates from the stomach.


How Your Diet Affects Your Mental Health


Take magnesium for a moment:


A seemingly insignificant mineral, right? According to research, the nutrient plays numerous important roles in the brain and central nervous system. Magnesium deficiency is a significant contributor to depression and anxiety. Research finds that supplementation leads to rapid recovery.


Given the body’s complexity, it’s no surprise that we need a wide range of nutrients to function well. Deficiency can lead to many physical issues, but it can also impact our brains and mental health. Other essential nutrients for the mind include B vitamins, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.


So, we must strive for a balanced and healthy diet – one based primarily on whole foods.


How to Eat a Healthy Diet With Limited Time and Money


One of the best things you can do is plan your meals several days in advance, buy products in bulk and prepare the foods. For instance, set aside some time on Sunday, do some grocery shopping and prepare several meals consisting of a complex carb source (rice, pasta, etc.) and a protein (fish, meat, poultry, etc.). Then, prepare a quick salad for each meal, and you’re ready to go. Leafy greens are always a great option.


While it may seem rather expensive, cooking most of your meals at home is more affordable and ends up costing far less in the long run. 


A great way to limit unnecessary expenditure is to stop buying processed junk altogether. To do that, never go to the grocery store hungry as that can make you spend more money on different kinds of food and snacks.


Sleep Matters, Too


Ironically, we sacrifice our sleep to spend more time working or having a good time. And little do we realize it, but the ever-growing sleep debt can wreak havoc on our health.


Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, poor insulin sensitivity, and metabolic syndrome. We also feel tired, unfocused, unmotivated, and irritable.


As it turns out, sleep deprivation also impacts the mind in significant ways and can contribute to worse mental health. For instance, research finds that sleep deprivation plays a role in depression. Researchers also propose that depression then worsens the quality of our sleep, which further strengthens depressive symptoms. This creates a cursed cycle, and many people find it impossible to break away.


So, what can we do about it? We can make a conscious effort to get more sleep – ideally, somewhere between seven and eight hours each night.


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