We were all under a lot of stress last year. Understanding the roles of food and nutrition in brain health can help us cope better with stress and even reduce symptoms of depression, irritability, and anxiety.
Food and nutrients can have a huge impact on the health of our brains. Our brain has a unique and complex metabolism and needs certain foods and nutrients to function optimally. Many of these nutrients cannot be made by our body. They only come from our diet.
Have you ever noticed a change in mood after eating junk food? It tastes good, but shortly afterwards you may have noticed that your mental energy deteriorated, became more irritable, more prone to stress, and maybe even felt depressed.
When we switch to healthy foods – like a Mediterranean diet – with more fruits, vegetables, healthy meat, and seafood, we introduce omega-3 fats, which increase neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The response occurs at the cellular level, but it often leads to an improvement in mood and vitality. It promotes better mental energy, more zest for life and increased resilience.
Foods that are high in omega-3 fats include oily fish like tuna, halibut, herring, mackerel, lake trout, salmon, and sardines.
Studies have confirmed that taking EPA-containing omega-3 fatty acids – another essential fatty acid – and DHA can significantly reduce aggression and depression. In countries where seafood is scarce, the rate of major depression is 50 times higher and the murder death rate is 30 times higher.
In the 20th century, the industrialization of food increased the consumption of vegetable oils rich in omega-6 fats – like junk food – and overtook the levels of omega-3 fats in our brains and bodies. When omega-6 fats are released in the body, they are converted into molecules that cause inflammation, pain, and a heightened perception of pain. Lowering omega-6 fats and increasing omega-3 fats in diets have reduced the psychological and physical stress on people with chronic pain.
Food and nutrients have life-changing benefits for your brain and body. You may be able to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall health and life on many levels, simply by changing the fats in your diet.
Dr. Joseph Hibbeln is a certified psychiatrist with Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe and Stateline. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Dr. A free wellness webinar entitled “Nutrition & Brain Health” will be fiddled with on Thursday, May 13th at 5:00 pm. Pre-register or watch pre-recorded webinars at BartonHealth.org/Lecture.