In the summer of 2020, 1 and 4 young adults between the ages of 18 – 24 considered suicide.
1 and 4 people will be diagnosed with depression or anxiety over the course of their life. Mental health is becoming more and more of an issue in our world today. The goal of this post is to simply reiterate the critical parts of nutrition that play a role in the brain health of everyone. I’m not here to say nutrition will solve all kinds of depression, many other factors play a role in mental health including sleep, relationships, and work. Regardless, It is still really important people understand the importance that proper nourishment has on our brain. Below are just a handful of different factors within nutrition that affect the health of the brain.
1. Micronutrient deficiencies – Trace minerals and vitamins usually cannot be just solved through a simple multivitamin. More often than not, multivitamins are full of cheap & poorly absorbable forms of these micronutrients. Also, many factors like exercise, sugar intake, excess hydration, antinutrients in plant foods, and alcohol all affect how much of the minerals we consume we are actually absorbing. Here are a handful of important minerals that affect the brain.
Vitamin D3 – A 2013 metanalysis revealed a link between low vitamin D levels and depression. One of the biggest issues that causes us to absorb less than optimal vitamin D is from the lack of dietary fat in the diet. Vitamin D is much better absorbed with the presence of dietary fat than none. Vitamin D rich foods include: Salmon, Milk, Eggs, & Mushrooms
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – EPA and DHA are both components of omega 3 fats that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain and improve cognitive function. Unfortunately, the diet of so many people today is incredibly high in omega 6 fatty acids and low in omega 3 fatty acids. This results in chronic inflammation in the body and an inability to balance the inflammation due to the excess load of 6’s. Foods most rich in bioavailable omega 3 fatty acids include Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel, and Cod Liver.
Vitamin B3, 6 & 12 – It is important to remember that vitamin B is a water-soluble mineral meaning it will be excreted and must be replaced often. The body cannot store it as it can with fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin B plays a role in stimulating neurotransmitters and the production of GABA, glutamic acid, and norepinephrine. Vitamin B rich foods include dark leafy greens, meat, liver, eggs, and dairy.
Magnesium – This mineral plays a role in hundreds of different enzymatic processes. One of the more prominent processes it is responsible for is the production of serotonin, a hormone that alters mood. It also plays an important enzymatic role in controlling chronic cortisol levels in the body which can lead to excess inflammation. Personally I find supplementing with magnesium glycinate to be the best way to include it in the diet because many of the foods that have magnesium are hard to digest and less bioavailable.
2. Gut Dysbiosis – Plenty of research has shown the links between poor gut health and depression. Gut health can be negatively impacted by an improper amount of micronutrients as well as food allergies. Consuming toxic foods that our body is not well designed to digest and absorb can break down the gut lining and create an environment where it is very difficult for the body to absorb all the nutrients your body needs. Common food intolerances include gluten, soy, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy, and eggs. Remember, “You are not what you eat, rather you are what you digest.”
3. Standard American Diet – The Standard American Diet makes for a “SAD” way of providing your body with the nutrients it needs. Most people consume a calorically high and nutrient low diet made up of flour, sugar, and oil from all the processed foods that bombard the grocery stores. Those three ingredients provide zero micronutrients and are extremely addictive when combined. This includes foods like donuts, bagels, chips, cookies, pasta, pizza, pancakes, cereals, and many others. This crowds out of diet from any nutrient-dense whole foods like meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Past research has revealed the correlations between intake of gluten and it’s affect on gut health. The issue with a high intake of these foods is how easy it is to overconsume them which results in excess inflammation and chronic inflammation. The standard american diet is low in protein, low in micronutrients, fiber, and high in calories which leaves the individual hungry and in need to overconsume because the body is not truly nourished.