“You are what you eat” is a common phrase which precisely describes the value of food in maintaining one’s health. The phrase simply means that good health requires nutritious food. Eating junk and less nutrient food will result in bad health, as it will not be able to provide sufficient energy and nutrients to give strength and protect the body against diseases and germs.
Food is generally associated with physical health. However, food plays an equal part in ensuring good mental health. In fact, there are several foods such as whole grains that are known to boost mental health. The series “Foods that help in maintaining a healthy mind,” discusses foods that have proven beneficial for maintaining good mental health and also help in easing psychological symptoms.
Food plays an important part in controlling the development and management of brain and related conditions such as schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease. Among foods such as berries, leafy greens, omega fatty acids and many others, studies have shown whole grains to significantly reduce mood swings, anxiety and depression.
Whole grain and the brain
According to the studies, the majority of whole grains are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid required for the production of serotonin and melatonin in the body. Of the two, serotonin is the “feel-good hormone”, responsible for improving mood and calming the mind, melatonin helps in establishing and maintaining steady sleep cycles.
Whole grains also help maintain steady blood sugar levels, which further helps in keeping the mood elevated for a longer time. Apart from boosting serotonin levels, whole grains also add several other beneficial nutrients and fibers to the body.
Whole grains also promote healthy food habits. According to a study by Arizona State University, while diets that contain low level of carbohydrates lead to fatigue and a reduced desire to exercise, diets containing sufficient whole grain encourages a person to opt for healthy dietary and living options such as routine physical exercises.
Controversy of “grain brain”
The book by David Perlmutter “Grain Brain”, created a lot of controversy soon after its release in 2013 as it talked about the disadvantages of eating grain. The book stated that long-term intake of whole grain can result affect the brain causing conditions such as dementia, chronic headaches and anxiety.
“Although several factors play into genesis and progression of brain disorders, to a large extent numerous neurological conditions often reflect the mistake of consuming too many carbs and not enough healthy fats,” says Perlmutter in his book.
As a result, the book was highly criticized by critics and experts who denied the claims of the book and called them misleading. According to Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., professor emerita of foods and nutrition at St. Catherine University, the suggestions on food given in the book can be effective if considered in isolation. All of them together are contrary to the science related to the benefits of carbohydrates on the brain.
Keeping a tab on mental health
Eating well is important not only to ensure good physical health but also sound mental health. It is important to eat foods with the right amount of nutrients. A deficiency or excess amount of any nutrient can affect mental health.
If you or a loved one has some form of mental health disorder, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. You may call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to learn more about mental health and mental disorders. Our mental health experts can also help you find the mental health rehabilitation centers near you.
Read the other articles of the series, “Foods for a healthy mind”: