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Mental Health Ties in With Dietary Choices

By Jade C. Pulman

People watch what they eat because they don't want to suffer from obesity. A poor diet can yield some negative consequences for physical appearances. A bad diet might also cause health and disease issues. Most people are aware of these various awful diet hazards. Few people, however, realize a poor diet also comes with a risk to your mental health.

The mind and body work in harmony. Fats, proteins, and carbs that enter the bloodstream go right to the cells including those in the brain. Since the brain relies on your nutritional choices, mental health becomes affected by diet choices. Maybe it is best to now look at a few ways how diet impacts mental health.

Sugar and Mental States

Knowing how many carbs in a banana is important. You want to know how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat comprise your food choices to get the right amount of each. This way, you don't overdo it with one while failing to get enough of another. Such knowledge is helpful, but you must go a little further. Knowing the difference between good and bad carbs would help nutritional choices.

Carbohydrates sometimes get a bad reputation due to misunderstandings. Good carbs such as bananas, oatmeal, and various vegetables come with a low-calorie count and a host of vitamins. Processed foods such as potato chips, donuts, and sweetened soda are full of sugar, empty calories, and no nutrients. Processed, refined carbs also create troubles for your mental state. For years, people believed in the concept of a "sugar high," short-term hyperactivity caused by sugar intake. Today, researcher feel sugar highs and crashes might be myths. That is not to say excess consumption of sugar doesn't cause problems. Research shows eating too much sugar can impair memory, cause mood problems, and even affect attention spans.

The Arrival of Free Radicals

Free radicals abound in poor-quality foods. Free radicals are "unstable atoms" capable of damaging cells. Once cells suffer damage, illness and other woes may follow. The human body makes free radicals. So, you can't be completely free of them. What you can do is try to avoid speeding up their production through poor lifestyle choices. Your choices of foods and beverages play a role in this acceleration process.

Cellular damage inflicted by free radicals can occur in the brain. When free radicals negatively impact the brain, mood problems and other negative consequences might follow. The human brain tissue isn't indestructible. Avoid contributing any unnecessary harm.

Diet and Serotonin

The complex process of mood stabilization relies heavily on the body's regulation of serotonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter and a hormone, contributes to someone's ability to feel upbeat and positive. When problems with serotonin emerge, mental health can suffer. In particular, issues with serotonin might factor into constantly depressed moods. Troubles with serotonin are commonly treated with psychiatric drugs. Many published writings discuss serotonin and drug therapy, but far less seems to exist about serotonin's relationship to diet.

A 2007 report published by the National Institutes of Health discussed ways of increasing serotonin levels without drugs. Not surprisingly, making educated dietary choices were listed among the ways to do so. The word to focus on here is "educated." Certain foods maintain an inaccurate reputation for boosting serotonin. Eating these foods — even though they may be nutritious — won't improve serotonin levels. Anyone wishing to achieve this result should look into studies revealing what particular foods do enhance serotonin.

Motivation Required

Any improvements sought by a better diet — be they physical or mental — requires motivation. You must put in the time and effort to learn about the ways diet helps or hinders. And, of course, you need to commit to making the right dietary choices necessary to experience improvements.

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