Nutrition, exercise, and mood – How are they connected?
Your brain works 24*7. It works even when you are sleeping.
Unlike you, your brain does not get any holidays. It is working nonstop to control your thoughts, feelings, and movements. This implies that your brain needs an adequate amount of fuel to function normally.
What supplies the fuel required by your body and brain? It is the food that you eat every day, and the nutrients contained in it that makes all the difference. In simple terms, the nutrients or the lack of nutrients in food affect your mood.
NUTRITION, Exercise, and Mood
What is the connection between nutrition and mood?
Healthy eating habits and nutritious food help to improve mood, reduce depression symptoms, increase concentration power, think logically, and so on. Let us find out how different types of nutrients affect your mood and mental health.
Our body and brain need the energy to function smoothly. Our brain needs a specific amount of energy to think, focus, and concentrate. We get this energy from carbohydrates.
According to the Institute of Medicine, human beings get around 45 percent to 65 percent calories from carbohydrates from an 1800 calorie regular diet. What does this mean? Well, it means that fifty percent of the food that we eat should be good carbohydrates.
Foods that contain carbohydrates
Oats, brown rice, wheat, barley, quinoa, cereals, nuts, fruits, legumes, vegetables, yogurt, etc.
2. Tryptophan and tyrosine
Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, sleep, memory, learning, social behavior, and appetite. It also helps to send messages from one area of the brain to another, and its 90 percent of its supply comes from your digestive tract, which contains a lot of nerve cells. So, this means that our digestive system not only helps us to digest food, but it also helps to regulate our mood.
Dopamine, on the other hand, regulates your ability to think, focus, concentrate, and feel pleasure. Imbalance in dopamine levels may lead to schizophrenia, ADHD, and addiction. On the other hand, an imbalance in the serotonin level may lead to depression.
Tryptophan is an amino acid and a precursor of serotonin. Tyrosine is also an amino acid. It is the precursor to dopamine. So, an effective way to increase the serotonin and dopamine level is to eat foods that contain tryptophan and tyrosine.
Foods that contain tryptophan and tyrosine
Tryptophan – Chicken, turkey, eggs, sesame seeds, cheese, peanuts, tofu, chocolate, fish, milk, etc.
Tyrosine – Oats, fish, beans, eggs, meat, wheat, and nuts.
Vitamin B6 and B12 generate chemicals that help your brain to function properly. Inadequate levels of vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, folate, and other vitamins may lead to depression. Moreover, vitamin B12 helps in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine. Hence, vitamin B is essential for our mental health.
The best way to get vitamin B in your body is to have a healthy diet. Our body can’t generate vitamin B12 itself.
Apart from vitamin B12, vitamin B1 is also essential for our mental health. Vitamin B1 helps to convert food to energy, which acts as a fuel for our brain. Lack of vitamin B1(thiamine) may cause irritability and memory loss.
Foods that contain essential vitamins
Whole grains, leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, eggs, meat, fish, fat-free milk, potatoes, squash, chickpeas, beef liver, yogurt.
Our brain needs fat for effective communication between neurotransmitters. According to a study conducted by Harvard, depression symptoms are less common in people who eat fish. And, why is that so? It is because fish oil has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may help to suppress the symptoms of mood disorders in people.
Foods that contain Omega-3s
Fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, trout, nuts, etc.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant. It may help lower inflammation, which is often at a high level in individuals with anxiety. Adequate consumption of foods that contain selenium may help to stabilize mood.
Foods that contain Selenium
Mushroom, walnuts, brown rice, sunflower seeds, crab, fish, poultry, cottage cheese, tuna, turkey, etc.
What kind of diet is good for your mental health?
There are two kinds of diet. The first one is the traditional diet. The second one, the western diet. The typical examples of a traditional-diet are the Japanese diet and the Mediterranean diet. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, individuals who eat a traditional-diet have 25% to 35% less risk of suffering from depression. The reason is simple. A traditional-diet contains lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, fish, lean meats, dairy products, etc. On the other hand, a western diet has lots of processed foods and sugars, which are not that good for mental health.
How to develop healthy eating habits
Focus on having a balanced diet that has all the essential nutrients required by your body and mind.
- Drink lots of water at regular intervals in a day.
- Avoid eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol.
- Have a healthy breakfast every day at a proper time.
- Maintain a diet that has loads of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, tryptophan, etc.
- Eat healthy foods both at home and in restaurants.
Nutrition, EXERCISE, and Mood
What is the connection between exercise and mood?
Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do when you are depressed. However, when you do exercise, it helps to control your blood pressure, lower diabetes, and stay fit. Moreover, exercise helps to improve mood and reduce depression symptoms. A five-day workout in 30-minute may help lower depression symptoms and improve mood significantly. However, if someone doesn’t have that much time, then a fifteen-minute physical exercise can also help to improve mood.
Exercise helps to improve your mood in 4 simple ways.
First, it helps to release feel-good hormones called endorphins. They lead to a sense of well-being and feeling of ‘runners high’, which one gets after a hard workout or a long run. Endorphins are natural sedatives that help to reduce the feeling of pain. Moreover, it helps to lower stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
Secondly, exercise helps to divert your attention from troubling thoughts that may cause depression and anxiety. Your body is busy doing cardio and squats. Your mind is focused on your body. So, you don’t get any time to nurture negative thoughts.
Thirdly, exercise also helps to boost your confidence. When you set small exercise goals and achieve them, you feel confident about yourself. Moreover, the right exercise helps you to get in shape. So, when you look good, and people appreciate you, your self-esteem improves.
Finally, when you go to a gym and workout, you get an opportunity to meet and interact with many people. A polite smile exchanged with others, and friendly interactions help to uplift your mood.
As you can see, nutrition, exercise, and mood are closely related, which is why it is so important to lead as balanced a lifestyle as possible.
Author Bio: Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He has provided mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community.