Everyone is talking about depression during the COVID period, but some knowledge about how to maintain better mental health would be helpful towards the prevention of the same. Our mental health is like our gadgets, they need to be charged to stay connected, similarly, we need to charge ourselves with positive mood and healthy mental status. Whether we are awake, working, walking, thinking, or doing any activity or even sleeping, our brain is on 24/7 working like a gadget. To maintain this brain at normalcy, it also needs fuel in the form of good nutritious food.
Let us look towards the relationship between the food we eat and how we feel after that
- Eating a well-balanced diet that is filled with all essential nutrients promotes good mood, increases energy levels, and makes us think clearly.
- Each nutrient is required for mental health
Let us have look at each one of them which helps towards better mental health
- Carbohydrates: Our brain needs the energy to carry out its functions. Carbohydrates are a source of energy which we usually get from whole grains i.e. cereals, pulses, legumes, lentils, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, oils and nuts, sugars, etc. Generally, people with anxiety or feeling of depression tends to lower their appetite and they do not eat enough, then they feel weak, tired, anxious, and unable to think. In such conditions our eating habits are hampered; some people eat less, some people eat more, and sometimes with irregular timing, in such cases, blood sugar levels go high or sometimes may fall down as well which can result in mood swings. It is important to have enough amount of carbohydrates rich foods in your daily diet.
- Proteins: Amino acids help to improve thoughts and emotions so we must have protein-rich foods in our daily diet. Pulses, milk and milk products, fish, chicken, eggs, soya and products, nuts, and seeds are the richest and easily available sources of proteins.
- Fats: When people think of eating fats, they feel it is not good for health. But we must understand that all fats are not bad so when we choose fats, we must be considered good fats. Fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 are essential for brain function. Nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, walnuts are some good sources of fat.
- Vitamins and minerals: Include seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet which provides vitamins and minerals and fiber as well.
- Iron and folate: Sometimes we feel lethargic, tired and body pain, this is due to deficiency of iron in our body. Ensure you take the required amount of Iron and folate daily, which helps to become energetic. Good sources of iron and folate include – Chicken, eggs, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, ragi, dates, raisins, etc. We should consider the intake of vitamin C like oranges, lemon, amla as it improves iron absorption.
- Vitamins B: Non – veg food sources, milk, and its products are good sources of B vitamins.
- Selenium: Selenium deficiency is associated with negative thinking and depressed state, so it is always good to improve selenium intake i.e. inclusion of nuts, seeds, fish, and meat.
Here are some tips to boost your mood
- Cherish your breakfast as it can boost your whole day
- Avoid eating high sugar food products in your breakfast
- Always opt for complex carbohydrates, protein as it contains amino acids that provide chemicals to the brain for regulating thoughts and emotions. Always opt for good fats, fiber, and drink plenty of water but avoid high sugar beverages.
- Choose seasonal vegetables and fruits which has an enormous number of vitamins and minerals
Serotonin is primarily responsible for mental health. It is a neurotransmitter that helps to reduce anxiety, regulate sleep, regulate appetite, and regulates mood. Generally, serotonin is found in the digestive system, blood platelets, and the central nervous system. Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids that makes serotonin, it is important to eat a tryptophan-rich diet to maintain a healthy mental status. Usually, foods like nuts, cheese, red meat has good amount of tryptophan. If the diet is deficient in tryptophan, it eventually leads to a decrease in serotonin levels resulting in mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, disturbed sleep, improper digestion, over or less eating, etc. When serotonin levels are normal, we feel happy, healthy, calm, focused, less anxious, and emotionally stable. And when Serotonin levels increase one may experience shivering, heavy sweating, confusion, restlessness, headache, high blood pressure, high fever, unconsciousness, seizures, irregular heartbeats, etc. A good amount of exposure to Sunlight, regular exercise, a wholesome healthy diet, and meditation helps to boost serotonin levels in our body.
Probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed by improving or restoring gut flora. These are considered good bacteria that keep the body healthy and well working. On the other hand, prebiotics is non-digestible food ingredients that affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improves host health. Probiotic and prebiotic contribute to stabilizing our gut which might become upset due to medication such as antibiotics and sometimes because of stress, lack of sleep, and high level of salt consumption.
Meditation is a powerful technique to deal with stress and anxiety. Regular meditation helps to cope up with negative emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, etc. Nowadays stress is a major part of everyone’s life-impacting overall health, so it is essential to reduce it. Stress often leads to all or some of the body conditions like headache, muscle pain, fatigue, changes in sex drive, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, disturbed sleep or changing sleep patterns are also associated with stress. If we do not control our stress now then there is an increased risk of chronic health issues i.e. heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, etc.
Exercise is not only restricted to physical fitness or appearance; it helps to improve mental health as well as gives people an enormous sense of wellbeing. It fights depression by maintaining good mental health, promotes neural growth, reduces inflammation, promotes a feeling of being calm, it also releases endorphins which makes you feel good about yourself, and relieve stress.
- Exercise improves mental health as it decreases anxiety, depression, negative mood, also it improves self-esteem and cognitive functions.
- Exercise plays a very fantastic role in patients with schizophrenia (schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves)
- Patients with schizophrenia are more vulnerable to obesity and as they are on antipsychotic treatment which increases the risk of weight gain, exercise plays a big role in maintaining health. The study says people with schizophrenia who underwent exercise sessions, experienced good weight control, increased fitness levels, exercise tolerance, reduced blood pressure, increased stamina, increased upper body, and handgrip strength level.