Food and Our Mental Health

Michael Lawson
Food Services Manager
Arlington Court Skilled Nursing & Rehab

mental health foodWith the weather becoming colder and gloomy along with the uncertainty that the COVID–19 pandemic brings it is important to always look for the good and positive in the people we meet and the world we encounter on a daily basis.  Our mood plays a big role in how our days are shaped and one variable that has been linked to our mood are the types of foods we intake.

Our G.I. tracts produce billions of bacteria that in turn produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that get sent to our brain. These two neurotransmitters are considered “feel good hormones” in that they make us feel good and affect our mood positively. When we choose not to eat healthy these neurotransmitters’ production is hampered. According to studies sugar has been shown to hamper production of dopamine and serotonin by causing inflammation.

We can promote healthy mood by focusing on whole foods which do not have preservatives in them. Preservatives in food have been shown to correlate with depression. Foods high in folate such as greens and lentils help with dopamine production. Foods high in antioxidants such as berries and leafy vegetables help decrease inflammation. Fiber power foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables increase sugar absorption and decrease sugar rushes. The mineral Magnesium has been shown to help fight off depression and anxiety symptoms. Magnesium is found in dark chocolate, green leafy, vegetables, and bananas.

Incorporating new eating habits can be tricky at times due to its inconvenience and the seemingly endless temptations to snack and eat out. As with developing any habit to improve one’s self it is important to break it down into smaller sustainable goals. This could be adding a serving of fruit to each meal, slowly decreasing one’s fast food intake on a weekly basis, or deciding to substitute water for soda one craving at a time. The benefits of eating healthy can not only be seen but felt. Eating healthy has shown to limit mood fluctuations, improve focus, increase energy, limit the risk of numerous diseases, and improve quality of life.