According to recent statistics, over 1/4th of all Americans suffer from some sort of a mental disorder. Furthermore, around 6% of the US population has been diagnosed with what could be termed as a serious mental illness and that percentage is on the rise. There are similar trends in other countries around the world. A huge epidemic of people with mental diseases seems to be taking over society and many people are becoming sick in the brain.
What is the reason? There are several things that are behind this, but one culprit seems to be the diet. Recent scientific studies point to improper nutrition as one of the main explanations of why there has been such an abrupt rise in mental illnesses among the population in the past few decades.
Nutrients are not only important for growing a big and healthy body, but also promote healthy brain functions, which allows you to do all your mental activities better. Healthy eating is a prerequisite for maintaining a healthy body and is also an important prerequisite for maintaining a healthy and functioning mind.
Unfortunately, many people don’t get their required amount of nutrients for proper brain functioning. In the modern era, the diet of many people has become very unbalanced and does not include many of the important elements that it should. This imbalance can become quite critical for the brain, since it demands around 20% of the total nutrient intake of the body in order to function properly.
Coupled with instant gratification behavior (which is growing stronger partially due to changes in technology) and a loss of values, the lack of a proper diet is another one of the culprits of the decline of mental health, a rise in different mental disorders and also the rise of depression.
A lack of proper nutrition leads to problems in the brain
There are more and more scientific studies which are starting to prove the connection between nutrition and mental health. These studies demonstrate a link between these 9 nutrients and brain health: omega3, B vitamins (especially folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D, and amino acids. This means that if you want to have a healthy, functioning brain, you need to have these nutrients in your diet.
In order to illustrate what is going on, let’s look at some of the things that happen in the brain. Amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein are also involved in the production of such important neurotransmitters as dopamine and serotonin. Enzymes (they are made of proteins) convert the structure of tyrosine (an amino acid) and produce dopamine (a neurotransmitter). Other types of enzymes convert tryptophan (another amino acid) into serotonin (a neurotransmitter).
If the above two amino acids are not present in the brain, there can be serious problems. Deficiency of these two amino acids in the diet has been linked with depression and aggression.
Similarly, diets lacking in omega 3 fatty acids can lead to severe disturbances in the brain. An intake of fatty acids is especially important for the brain, since it contains the highest level of fat in your body (surprise, surprise it’s not your stomach that contains the highest level of fat 🙂 ) Half of the grey matter that is in your brain consists of polyunsaturated fats, with one third of that being omega 3 fatty acids.
The modern diet is severely deficient in this type of fatty acid, which is considered essential. Several scientific studies have shown that diets lacking in omega 3 fatty acids can lead to severe disturbances in the brain and various mental problems.
In order for your brain to function properly, you also need to fuel it and for that carbohydrates are very important. However recently you have seen carbs being labeled as the work of the devil and many modern fad diets call for severe restrictions in the consumption of them.
That can be disastrous for your brain. Consumption of diets low in carbohydrates tends to precipitate depression. For example, the production of brain chemicals serotonin and tryptophan is triggered by carb rich foods and if your brain doesn’t get these carbs, then it cannot start producing these brain chemicals.
A lack of any of the nutrients above can lead to a variety of mental problems. Recently we have seen a huge rise in people diagnosed with depression. Many scientists have studied this phenomenon and some of their studies point out that depression is not only due to emotional factors, but nutrition also plays a role in its onset and duration. So if you want to prevent depression, you not only need to avoid emotional triggers, but also eat properly.
What to do in order to have a healthy brain?
What do you need to do in order to have a healthy and functioning brain? The authors of one of the studies give some tips: “A traditional whole-food diet, consisting of higher intakes of foods such as vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grains, lean meat, nuts, and legumes, with avoidance of processed foods, is more likely to provide the nutrients that afford resiliency against the pathogenesis of mental disorders.”
They also state that it is also possible to supplement your diet with supplements if you are not getting enough of the right nutrients. However the primary source of your nutrients should always be a proper diet.
How is your diet? Do you get all the nutrients needed in order for you to have a healthy brain and a healthy body? If not, try to change it up and include foods that are sources of the above nutrients. Fish are very good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, seafood such as oysters and also spinach are good sources of zinc, sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts and dried fruits are good sources of B vitamins, while magnesium is found in dark leafy greens and different types of nuts. Ensure that you get a good mix of foods and try to avoid anything processed.
The lack of omega 3 fatty acids in your modern diet.
The omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids imbalance in our diets
Instant gratification behavior in the modern society.
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