Brain Food: How Diet Affects Your Mental Health
One in five adults will experience mental illness during their lifetimes, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Better your odds by protecting your brain, starting with what you feed it.
Conditions like anxiety and depression are complicated and are connected to a number of factors, including genetics, personality and environment. But Grace Wong, a Calgary-based registered dietitian who specializes in mental health nutrition, says eating well can help your brain function at its best, which can help regulate how you feel. “We know that there’s an association between a high-quality diet and a lower prevalence of mental illness,” she explains, “but we actually haven’t seen a direct cause and effect for a specific nutrient.” You need a variety of nutrients for brain health. “When you’re eating different types of foods, you’re more likely to get all the building blocks you require for optimal brain function,” she says. Ready to get started? Here’s a road map to eating in a brain-boosting way that will help you manage your mental health.
On the Regular
Stick to three meals a day and one or two snacks, or have four or five smaller meals. “Our brains need a consistent and steady flow of fuel,” says Wong. When meals are eaten on an irregular basis, the result can be poor concentration, irritability and moodiness. As well, this kind of eating can cause you to undereat or overeat and lose touch with feelings of hunger and fullness, she explains. Since anxiety and depression can cause changes in appetite, it’s important to be connected to these feelings.