What you eat affects both your physical and mental health. Think of the food you eat as the fuel for your body and for your brain, just like gas is the fuel for a car. Good fuel comes from food that is good for you, and it directly affects your brain and, therefore, your mood.
In my last blog, I discussed how dark chocolate can stimulate the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. In my “Food for Thought” blog last year, I encouraged eating more berries, walnuts, and fish that is high omega-3 fatty acids to protect your brain and help keep your memory sharp. Now, there’s even more research to support the benefits a healthy diet can have for your brain and your mental outlook.
The DASH diet — known formally as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — was created to help people with high blood pressure lower it and improve their heart health. According to Dr. Cherian of Rush University Medical Center, the same mechanisms of the DASH diet that promote heart health may also promote good brain health. Dr. Cherian studied the effect of different dietary patterns on brain function and the incidence of depression and found a link between the DASH diet and a lower risk for depression.
The DASH diet limits intake of salt, red meat, sugars, and saturated fat. It emphasizes intake of whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and recommends only fat-free or low-fat dairy. Processed foods, foods and drinks with added sugar, and highly salted foods are limited, while more plant-based foods and heart healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados, are encouraged. The diet is widely recommended because studies show it aids weight loss and improves heart health.
Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood, according to Lauren Blake a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center-along with better memory, more energy throughout the day, and feelings of calmness. It stands to reason that skipping breakfast would do the opposite, leading to tiredness and anxiety. And, what makes a good breakfast? Lots of fiber from fruits and vegetables, some lean protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates are the perfect start to the day. Foods that fit right into the DASH diet guidelines.
Remember, eating nourishing foods is more than just for your body; it’s also for your mind!
Quote from Dr. Cherian: