Kysha Rook’s Column: Diet Affects Mental Health – Salisbury Post

From Kysha Rooks
NC cooperative expansion

When most people hear about mental health, they think of complex issues ranging from physical abuse, traumatic encounters, or even complicated genetic problems. Diet also has a significant impact on mental health, because the brain, which controls all body functions, needs a consistent supply of energy from the food that is consumed every day. A good quality balanced diet has positive effects on mental health, while poor nutrition has negative effects.

Eating a healthy diet has a positive effect on how you feel. In fact, nutritious food affects the functioning of neurotransmitters like serotonin. Put simply, neurotransmitters are chemicals that facilitate the transmission of an impulse between nerves and regulate body functions such as appetite, mood, sleep, and pain. Nutritious meals high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, water, and essential fats enable effective neurotransmitter activity. For example, micronutrients, mainly minerals and vitamins, act as catalysts for the conversion of amino acids into neurotransmitters. This means that people with a good intake of macronutrients will experience good sleep, better moods, and limited cases of memory loss. Hence, a balanced diet leads to good mental health.

In contrast, poor quality diet has a negative impact on mental health. Foods that contain saturated fats and processed carbohydrates inhibit proper neurotransmitter activity. An example of this is that consumption of butter and palm oil prevents the foods consumed from being converted into nutrients that are necessary to keep the brain energized.

As we move into the New Year, we should focus on eating a healthy and balanced diet as it has a direct impact on our mental health.

Kysha Rooks is an instructor for the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) with the Rowan County Extension.

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