Nutrition is a much debated and controversial field in the US and over the years, experts have touted many different ways of eating. As we learn more, the new advice seems to contradict the old, making it tough to tell what we can really believe. Much of this is because nutrition is a fairly young science that is rapidly evolving.
Current schools of wisdom also contradict each other. The Paleo Diet suggests eating more animal protein while vegan and vegetarian wisdom suggested fewer animal products are better for health and longevity. Who is right? The facts remain to be seen, and many studies are limited because they frequently do not take into account the quality of the foods being studied. Are meats detrimental because they are meat? Or are they detrimental because most meats contain hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides? Are vegetarians really healthier if they are eating lots of cheese or processed soy foods? Or only if they stick to a whole foods diet? Will eating more protein help our mental health? Or is it more about our body’s ability to digest and utilize the protein we’re already eating?
There are few things that competing schools of thought agree upon, but what we can say with near certainty is that we are best off hydrating well, reducing sugar, eating whole foods and ingesting copious amounts of vegetables, especially leafy greens.
In terms of how nutrition affects mental health, we know even less. Historically in the US, our healthcare system has viewed each component of our bodies as existing separately. It was widely held that nutrition affects our physical bodies while our mental health was based on less tangible things like our thoughts and feelings that came from our brain. Now many experts know better–our emotions are actually stored in the cells of our bodies and research has shown that mental health conditions like PTSD can actually be passed on through the DNA of the mother to the child.
Mental health is intricately linked with our digestive system where 95% of our serotonin is produced (White, 2013). When we’re stressed, we deplete our b-vitamins more quickly than usual, and we also need our b-vitamins that much more to help us produce happy and calming neurotransmitters like Serotonin and GABA to help us feel well-balanced. If we aren’t relaxed while eating, we don’t break down nutrients as well and this again makes it harder for our bodies to assimilate nutrients. As you can see, mental and physical health are actually one and the same–our bodies are one interrelated, complex computer!
Subscribe to our newsletter! Click here.
Stay tuned for more information on the best ways to get your b-vitamins and supplements to help boost your serotonin and GABA.
Author: Heather Shannon, LCPC – Certified Holistic Health Coach
Get a FREE 20-minute personalized vitamin & supplement consultation with Heather when you purchase a $50 supplement credit. She will review what you’re currently taking and make recommendations based on your budget, lifestyle and health goals.