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A Beginners Guild to Nutrition: How is my Mental Health Connected?

Jenna is a part-time online blogger who is currently working towards her English degree. After she graduates, she hopes to write full-time.

Nutrition and brain function

Nutrition and brain function

Nutrition background

Nutrition is very important. As I am sure you, the reader, knows this already. Food is important. Hydration is important. These two things are what keep our bodies functioning properly. Coincidently, your digestive system is connected to your brain! So if you think about it, what you put into your body truly does effect how you think, process information, and communicate.

If you were to eat a bunch of junk foods, such as, cookies, donuts, or chips, you would probably not feel very good. Digestive and mentally wise. It is also possible that you could experience a sugar rush, then become sluggish or sick while coming down from the rush. Which, lets be honest, is not healthy whatsoever. Constantly coming up and back down in such short periods of time can be draining. Have I mentioned that sugar rushes don’t last very long? This means that you may become hungry faster, which can possibly lead to over eating. These habits teach your brain to only be able to function with high amounts of sugar. This also isn’t very healthy.

Foods that contain high amounts of sugars:

  1. Cake
  2. Donuts
  3. Soft drinks (fountain sodas, juices, energy drinks, gatorades, etc)
  4. Candy
  5. Cereals

These are only SOME of the foods that contain extreme amounts of sugar, and that you should consider avoiding.

on the flip side of things, putting foods into your body that contain high amounts of protein and fats is good! These foods keep you fuller for longer periods of time And are overall way healthier for your body and mind. There are so many sweet substitutes that you could buy or even make that are still high in protein or have less sugars.

Foods that are high in proteins and fats:

  1. Eggs
  2. Almonds
  3. Cottage cheese
  4. Milk
  5. Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc)

You can be so creative with food. The possibilities are endless! I will link a few of my favorite recipe apps/websites at the bottom of this article for anyone to check out!

Digestive System = Brain Function

Ahh, now for my favorite part! I find it incredibly interesting on how the digestive system and brain are related. Now, this sounds a bit crazy. And you’re probably wondering how in the world are two opposite parts of the body are connected. Well. I will explain!

If youever ever been on date, or sat in the waiting room to see if you got the job or not, then you’ve probably experienced “butterflies” in the tummy. This is your brain telling your digestive muscles to contract which causes the famous feeling of “butterflies.”

Here’s another example... Have you ever seen a gory photo that made your stomach churn? According to Laurie L. Dove’s article, Why do we vomit when we see something gross?, there are newly discovered “mirrored neurons” that cause a sympathetic reaction to the person or thing that is vomiting, crying, or laughing! Now how cool is that? The neurons send signals to our G.I. telling it to vomit. The same happens when you seen someone laughing. When you seen a friend or family member laughing, the neurons send signals to your body that tell it to laugh.

See? The digestive system and brain are linked! If you’re interested in learning more about the “mirrored neurons” or how our brains and DS are connected, I recommend checking out this article published by PubMed.gov

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Okay, How does Mental Health Tie into Nutrition?

I am so glad you asked! Remember when you were in high school and your Physical Education teacher preached to you about eating healthy and getting enough exercise Because it increase productiveness and improve your mental health? Well, your old high school PE teacher wasn’t that far off. Regular exercise and healthy eating is actually really, really, really good for your brain (and mental health).

Eating healthy not only helps you drop the weight, but it also improves your mood. Doctors encourage adolescents to make healthier options when it comes to the mind, body, and quality of life. This is because during or after puberty, some teenagers experience mood swings. Now, this is completely, 100% normal. It is expected. Engaging in healthy habits can decrease these pesky swings. Whether it be eating healthy, exercising regularly, or making time for self care.

There are many articles, other Hubs, and websites that have more information about mental health and healthy habits. I encourage you to do some research if you’re interested, because it is good to know these things about your body and mind. Especially during your adolescent years.

Steps to Leading a Healthy Life Style

Leading a healthy lifestyle is so beneficial. It prevents diseases and sickness, improves mental health, and you overall feel good. Your body feels good when you put nutritious foods and vitamins into it. You’ll find that things start moving a lot quicker and efficiently.

Beginning your healthy life style is a process. It takes time, research, and changes. Lots and lots of changes. This means cutting out unhealthy foods and habits that would normally fit into you day. A good thing to start out with would be thinking to yourself “What would I reach for right now if I was hungry?” Would you open a bag of chips? Or get those baby carrots out of your fridge that have been sitting there for a week, and dip them into some hummus? Chips sound good. And they taste good... but do they have the nutrients that I need to keep me full and provide me energy? Ehh, most likely not. In fact, chips have VERY high trans-fats which lead to obesity, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Carrots on the other hand... are a fantastic choice! Carrots carry TONS of nutrients and benefits, such as, fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. Antioxidants are virus suppressors, which help fight off viruses and boost your immune system. So no that you know a little bit more about your two options, which would you pick?

Without further or do, lets summarize all of that and put it into steps!

1. Practice self control

Self control is hard, to say the least. When you’re super duper hungry and there is a big fluffy jelly filled donut sitting on the table just waiting to be eaten, (at least for me before I practice healthy habits) you would probably eat it. But you are a strong person! Anyone can have excellent self control. Practice makes better after all.

2. Cut out any bad habits you have (I.e. extra snacking during the day or late at night.)

Snacking is 100% okay! Lets be honest. We all do it. Even those really buff looking power lifters. The trick is, you have to find alternatives that are nutritious. If you aren’t into eating fruit or vegetables for every snack, that’s okay! Whole food stores and sometimes regular grocery stores have many healthy alternatives that have little to no carbs, sugars, trans-fats, etc..

3. Accept that you will struggle or even fail

This is a really important step. You don’t develop healthy habits or a good body over night. You will struggle. You will fail. It is important to accept this because no one is perfect. We have cheat days sometimes, and that’s okay. No one expects you to completely cut out that one special treat you like. All you have to remember is that you can do this, and get back on your grind the next day! Don’t give up! I believe in you!

4. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day

Exercise is soooo good for you. It’s good for your mind, soul, and body. It is critical to stay active. Even if its just a walk to the park or around the block. Finding ways to stay active is easy. You can find workouts and more through:

  • YouTube
  • Sworkit
  • Some dieting apps
  • Google
  • Blogs and other health websites and programs

5. Keep a journal and make a plan

Now, before y’all start rolling your eyes or clicking out of this article... Hear me out! Keeping a journal, whether it be a food diary, health journal, calorie tracker, etc, is a good way to stay on track. I’ve kept a health journal, as well as a calorie counter since I started my health journey, and I will never go back! You can include your successes, your fails, what you ate for lunch, your goals. Anything! It is also incredibly interesting to look back and see results or old entries. I know that my journal entries serve as motivation to keep on pushing towards my goals. Creating a plan is good for keeping yourself organized and on track. You are less likely to fall off the wagon if you make a plan and stick by it as closely as possible.

These are my 5 steps to creating a solid, healthy plan, and you are not obligated whatsoever to follow them. Customize your plan and steps to what is right for you.

If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means:

First Attempt in Learning

— Unknown

Doing your own Research

Doing your own research is also an important factor during your journey. This where you have to follow your gut (pun intended, hehe) feeling and do what is best and most comfortable to you. One person’s method and what worked for them might not even what works for you. Which is normal, because everyones bodies are different. They process things differently, digest things differently, and so much more.

Keep in mind that your first nutrition plan may not work. That is why doing research on different health habits and diets, and even reading other blogs that have other peoples personal experiences can be informative. It can help set you on track and be aware of what could lie ahead for you. You know your body best. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop what you’ve been doing or look for another plan.

Discussing your questions and concerns with a nutritionist or your primary care provider is something to consider before moving forth with your plan. They can offer support, recommendations, and professional advice.

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Now you’re all set!

Wooo Hooo! Now (hopefully), you have a bit more insight on nutrition, how it connects to your mind, and how healthy habits can increase your quality of life. Making the choice to swap out bad habits for good habits is a big step. It’s a process. It wont happen over night. But if you keep pushing and believing in yourself, I guarantee you will get the results you want.

Mindset, habits, and routines, are the building blocks for success toward your wellness goals.

— Robyn Conley Downs

My Recommended recipe Apps!

  1. Spark recipes
  2. Green Kitchen
  3. Yummly

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