Five types of food to in­crease your psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Diet -

WE ALL know eat­ing ‘healthy’ food is good for our phys­i­cal health and can de­crease our risk of de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes, cancer, obe­sity and heart dis­ease. What is not as well known is that eat­ing healthy food is also good for our men­tal health and can de­crease our risk of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. Men­tal health dis­or­ders are in­creas­ing at an alarm­ing rate and ther­a­pies and med­i­ca­tions cost $2.5 tril­lion dol­lars a year glob­ally.

There is now ev­i­dence di­etary changes can de­crease the de­vel­op­ment of men­tal health is­sues and al­le­vi­ate this grow­ing bur­den. Aus­tralia’s clin­i­cal guide­lines rec­om­mend ad­dress­ing diet when treat­ing de­pres­sion. Re­cently there have been ma­jor ad­vances ad­dress­ing the in­flu­ence cer­tain foods have on psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing. In­creas­ing these nu­tri­ents could not only in­crease per­sonal well­be­ing but could also de­crease the cost of men­tal health is­sues all around the world.


One way to in­crease psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing is by fu­elling brain cells cor­rectly through the car­bo­hy­drates in our food. Com­plex car­bo­hy­drates are sug­ars made up of large mol­e­cules con­tained within fi­bre and starch. They are found in fruit, veg­eta­bles, and whole­grains and are ben­e­fi­cial for brain health as they re­lease glu­cose slowly into our sys­tem. This helps sta­bilise our mood.

Sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates found in sug­ary snacks and drinks cre­ate sugar highs and lows that rapidly in­crease and de­crease feel­ings of hap­pi­ness and pro­duce a neg­a­tive ef­fect on our psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing. We of­ten use these types of sug­ary foods to com­fort us when we’re feel­ing down.

But this can cre­ate an ad­dic­tion-like re­sponse in the brain , sim­i­lar to il­licit drugs that in­crease mood for the short term but have neg­a­tive long-term ef­fects. In­creas­ing in­take of com­plex car­bo­hy­drates and de­creas­ing sug­ary drinks and snacks could be the first step in in­creased hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing.


Ox­i­da­tion is a nor­mal process our cells carry out to func­tion. Ox­i­da­tion pro­duces en­ergy for our body and brain. Un­for­tu­nately, this process also cre­ates ox­ida­tive stress and more of this hap­pens in the brain than any other part of the body.

Chem­i­cals that pro­mote hap­pi­ness in the brain such as dopamine and sero­tonin are re­duced due to ox­i­da­tion and this can con­trib­ute to a de­crease in men­tal health . An­tiox­i­dants found in brightly coloured foods such as fruit and veg­eta­bles act as a de­fence against ox­ida­tive stress and in­flam­ma­tion in the brain and body.

An­tiox­i­dants also re­pair ox­ida­tive dam­age and scav­enge free rad­i­cals that cause cell dam­age in the brain. Eat­ing more an­tiox­i­dant-rich foods can in­crease the feel-good chem­i­cals in our brain and heighten mood.

Omega 3

Omega 3 are polyun­sat­u­rated fatty acids that are in­volved in the process of con­vert­ing food into en­ergy. They are im­por­tant for the health of the brain and the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of its feel-good chem­i­cals dopamine, sero­tonin and nor­ep­i­neph­rine.

Omega 3 fatty acids are com­monly found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, leafy veg­eta­bles, eggs, and in grass fed meats. Omega 3 has been found to in­crease brain func­tion­ing, can slow down the pro­gres­sion of de­men­tia and may im­prove symp­toms of de­pres­sion. Omega 3 are es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents that are not read­ily pro­duced by the body and can only be found in the foods we eat, so it’s im­per­a­tive we in­clude more foods high in omega 3 in our ev­ery­day diet.

B vi­ta­mins

B vi­ta­mins play a large role in the pro­duc­tion of our brain’s hap­pi­ness chem­i­cals sero­tonin and dopamine and can be found in green veg­eta­bles, beans, ba­nanas, and beet­root. High amounts of vi­ta­mins B6, B12, and fo­late in the diet have been known to pro­tect against de­pres­sion and too low amounts to in­crease the sever­ity of symp­toms.

Vi­ta­min B de­fi­ciency can re­sult in a re­duced pro­duc­tion of hap­pi­ness chem­i­cals in our brain and can lead to the on­set of low mood that could lead to men­tal health is­sues over a long pe­riod. In­creas­ing B vi­ta­mins in our diet could in­crease the pro­duc­tion of the feel good chem­i­cals in our brain which pro­mote hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing.

The tril­lions of good and bad bac­te­ria liv­ing in our tum­mies also in­flu­ence our mood, be­hav­iour and brain health. Chem­i­cal mes­sen­gers pro­duced in our stom­ach in­flu­ence our emo­tions, ap­petite and our re­ac­tions to stress­ful sit­u­a­tions.

Pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics found in yo­ghurt, cheese and fer­mented foods such as kom­bucha, sauer­kraut and kim­chi work on the same path­ways in the brain as an­tide­pres­sant med­i­ca­tions and stud­ies have found they might have sim­i­lar ef­fects .

Pre­bi­otics and Pro­bi­otics have been found to sup­press im­mune re­ac­tions in the body, re­duce in­flam­ma­tion in the brain, de­crease de­pressed and anx­ious states and el­e­vate happy emo­tions . In­cor­po­rat­ing these foods into our diet will not only in­crease our phys­i­cal health but will have ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects on our men­tal health, in­clud­ing re­duc­ing our risk of dis­or­ders such as de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

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