Health is the state of being illness or disease free. It comprises of two section namely physical health which is related to the wellbeing of human body and the other is mental health which is solely related to the wellness of mind and brain. To keep physical health in optimum condition we need to eat balanced diet rich in all six nutrients such as carbohydrate, protein, lipid, vitamin, minerals and water. On the other hand, to keep mental health in a balanced state we must eat nutritious food as much as possible to accelerate the function of brain as it is working hard by 24/7. Your brain needs constant supply of fuel to keep up its functioning. The fuel comes from what you eat. Simply, the food you eat directly affects your brain function and ultimately your mood or mental health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “about one billion people have a mental disorder and they tend to die 10-20 years earlier than the general population”. In another study WHO revealed that “In every 40 seconds one person losing their lives by committing suicide and it is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-19 years”. The COVID-19 pandemic adversely affects the mental health of all people of all ages. The suicide case surges very rapidly amid pandemic. In Bangladesh, the suicide case amid pandemic was higher than other time.
Keeping mental health at its optimum is in our hand. We can easily keep ourselves stress free by leading healthy lifestyle most importantly by eating nutritious food. Nutritious food is the prerequisite to good health and wellbeing. The way we lead our life at the present time is not good at all and also we have transform our dietary habit from traditional diet to western pattern diet. Dietary transition have has a great effect on the mood or brain. If you eat high quality foods that contain lot of vitamin, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, it will nourishes your brain and will protect from oxidative stress which is an important cause of mental disorder. On the other hand, if you eat low quality foods such as foods rich in sugar, salt, extra oil, saturated fat and processed food, it will hamper brain function by triggering oxidative stress in the body. This low quality or ultra-processed food badly fueled depression. In a nutshell, if your brain is deprived of good-quality nutrition, free radicals species will damage the brain cell and tissue as well, further contributing to brain tissue injury. Which is then turned into mental disorder. Now, it’s time to give up the bad dietary habits and try catch up the good dietary habit.
How dietary habit do affects your mental health?
A neurotransmitter called serotonin that regulate sleep and appetite, mediate mood and inhibit pain. About 95% of the serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and the GI tract lined with 100 million nerve cell or neurons. The function of these nerve cell and serotonin is regulated by good bacteria or probiotics in your gut. The number probiotics is dependent on what you eat. If you eat ultra-processed food it will reduce the gut micro flora. But when you eat gut friendly food such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and fiber rich food especially different vegetables with sufficient water the gut microbial population will get proper nutrition to live within the gut. Thus, good bacteria positively influenced the serotonin production and helps to mediate our mood and brain function. Study revealed that “traditional diet lower 25% to 35% depression compared to western pattern diet”. Traditional indicate the diet rich in fruits, vegetables, probiotics, phytonutrients, unprocessed grains, fish and seafood, and to contain only moderate amounts of lean meats and dairy products whereas western pattern diet contains refined sugar, excess salt and added oil with no fiber and phytonutrients. In recent years, the dietary pattern of young population in Bangladesh has dramatically shifted to western pattern diet. They regularly eat food with refined sugar, extra salt and added sweetener or flavor with no fiber. This change has brought a dramatical change in the mental health state of our youth. Most of the youth in our country are suffering from mental disorder especially who is addicted to eating more restaurant based food. This is high time to look up this issue with great importance. Otherwise near future, we will get a mentally traumatized nation.
What should you eat to keep your mental health optimum?
There are some foods that you may include in your daily diet. Hope it will help you to improve your mental health. They are as follows-
• Avoid refined food or fast food and try to eat whole foods such whole brown rice, whole wheat atta and so on. Eating whole foods will deliver fiber and some necessary nutrients to your body which is important to keep your brain functioning
• Avoid ultra-processed food. Choose homemade food or fermented food such as yogurt or cheese.
• Eat fresh vegetable and fruits as much as possible because it is rich in phytonutrients which is necessary to neutralize free radicals in our body.
• Try to eat probiotics rich food without added sugar
• Reduce sugar intake and choose brown sugar, Brown sugar is healthier as compared to white sugar.
• Eat sea foods especially sea fish as much as you can and avoid red meat and other fatty meat.
• Add colorful fruits and vegetable in your diet.
• Drink plenty of water every day.
Now, it is crystal to us that nutrition has a great role in improving mental health and wellbeing. So it is our responsibility to eat nutritious food to keep ourselves healthy and disease free. Let nutrition be your psychiatrist!
Md Billal Hossen Columnist & Student, Dept. of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology Faculty of Biological Science Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org