Feeding the brain what it needs

Eating properly isn’t just a good habit for having a healthy body, it’s also a good habit for having a healthy mind.

Eating healthily is a simple method of bolstering mental health; eating right helps manage your physiology and keeps it stable.

“If your blood sugars are off, it means your capabilities are off,” said Alisha Dearmin, an adult mental health counselor at Palouse River Counseling.

The brains is essentially a giant muscle that requires a large amount of protein, roughly 30 percent of all our ingested protein, Dearmin said.

She listed the benefits of some of the healthiest mind foods:

Eating a wide variety of foods can help prevent depression, as our brains need different chemicals to function.

Eating carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels. Serotonin causes a person to relax, which can lower anxiety.

Protein-rich foods raise alertness because of an increase in tyrosine, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, bolster brain cells as the chemicals in those foods become part of the brain cell membrane.

The consequences of not eating well include a variety of depression-like symptoms.

“Low blood sugar can actually mimic anxiety symptoms,” Dearmin said.

A lack of thiamine, usually found in legumes, creates a lack of energy and can prevent effective responses from muscles. Symptoms can result in weakness, irritability and depression, Dearmin said.

Another main chemical is folate, found predominantly in leafy greens, which supports the production of red blood cells.

A lack of folate can result in apathy, fatigue, poor sleep, lack of concentration and depression.

It’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about when you eat.

The timing of when you eat can play a role in your mood throughout the day.

Skipping meals or restricting food significantly causes fluctuations in blood sugar levels which can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as large emotional responses, poor concentration, increased stress and binge eating.

The most efficient eating cycle is to spread out meals and have occasional snacks in between larger meals.

“Overall, to eat a balanced diet is important for every person,” said Bonita Lawhead, a chemical dependency professional at Palouse Recovery Center. “Fruits, veggies, protein and complex carbohydrates are important for good health, period.”

There are some recommendations available to help maximize a person’s intake of these needed chemicals and minerals, according to a report published by Dr. David Thomas.

First and foremost, get the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. Scrubbing fruits instead of peeling them prevents nutrients from being stripped away as many are located right below the fruit’s skin, which is present in especially colorful fruits

The more colorful the produce is, the higher in nutrients it is. Also, eating fast food should always be avoided.

“Eating fast food on a regular basis is not a good option,” Lawhead said.

Eating healthier is a simple and manageable way to maintain good mental health since one of the first things you can control is your own physiology.