The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistic’s survey reports that approximately 20% of Australian’s suffer from a mental or behavioural condition.
I know that starting a blog with a statistic is a bit dry but oh boy is that a staggering number.
Now there is no doubt that mental health is an incredibly complex, multi-faceted problem and I am in no way suggesting that if you just follow these tips below everything is going to be ok, but if these are things you’re not implementing in your current diet, I strongly urge you to give them a try.
First off, a little biology lesson about neurotransmitters. These are little text messages that are sent between our body to our brain, and from one part of our brain to another. They help us interact with the outside world, and can hugely affect our mood. Our goal is to maximise the amount and absorption of “good mood” neurotransmitters, whilst limiting the “bad mood” neurotransmitters.
There are lots of environmental and biological factors that can affect these little guys, but today we’ll be focussing on the positive effect food can have on our “good mood” neurotransmitters.
Eat Your Protein
You may be familiar with serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with good mood and feelings of contentment. While we don’t get serotonin from our food, we do get tryptophan, another amino acid which is a precursor for serotonin ie. the more tryptophan you have, the more serotonin your body can make. Tryptophan is most abundant in animal proteins, eggs as well as nuts and seeds so make sure you’re including these regularly in your diet.
Foods high in protein also help our body make dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is linked to feeling rewarded and satisfied. Seriously, what can’t protein do?
Eat Your Carbs
I’ve already extolled the many virtues of carbohydrate in other blogs but there’s a specific reason we want to be including good sources of carbohydrate regularly in our diet when it comes to our mental health. Remember that tryptophan I talked about before? Well, carbohydrate helps your brain absorb it. This means more serotonin, which means more feeling good! Yes, please.
Carbohydrate in the form of fruits and vegetables can also help further increase our dopamine levels, as the antioxidants in them help stop the dopamine from breaking down.
Basically, aiming for a good mix of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates at each meal can help make all of these little serotonin and dopamine based processes work synergistically together, so it’s a no brainer!
This is a big deal at the moment, and rightly so. While there are LOTS we still don’t know about this area of research, we do know that it’s incredibly important, as there is a direct line of communication back and forth between your gut and your brain. One of the absolute best things you can do for your gut health is to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This provides plenty of fibre and other nutritious compounds which your gut bacteria use as fuel, so a diet high in fibre = happy gut bacteria which = a happy gut which = a happy brain.