The Standard American Diet (SAD) is associated with calorically dense saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar, and excess sodium. In tandem with a sedentary lifestyle, the SAD has led to increasingly high rates of obesity, overweight, and diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
The nuanced effects of a poor diet include subpar digestion and absorption of essential nutrients thereby influencing the gut microbiome and mood regulation. Numerous well-documented studies have shown that our gut has a strong link to our mind, also known as the gut-brain axis. The microbial population that inhabits the human gut (gut microbiome) not only influences mental health but also attributes to holistic well-being.
Research suggests that almost 95% of the total serotonin produced in the body comes from the gut itself. Serotonin is a biomolecule that is responsible for mood-uplifting effects in humans. While inadequate nutrients can make you fatigued, a diet lacking in diverse plant fibers negatively alters the composition of your gut microbiome. This may leave you more susceptible to mood disorders and negative impulses.
The overconsumption of highly processed foods, combined with a diet lacking in whole food sources (i.e. fresh fruits, vegetables), can have a significantly adverse effect on the gut microbiome and in turn your mental health. Eating overly processed and fast foods are the leading cause of obesity in the US and have an overall negative impact on the brain. Dopaminergic dependency based on such food items makes you sluggish and agitated.
However, mindful and intentional eating habits allow you to reap the beneficial effects of proper nutrition on mental health. Consistently scheduled meal timing will also help you to maintain internal biological clocks that are responsible for the sleep-wake cycle and other essential hormonal and genetic bioprocesses.
For a healthy mental diet, prioritize lean proteins (i.e. chicken, fish, legumes, nuts), complex carbohydrates (i.e. millet, quinoa, brown rice), and essential fatty acids (i.e. fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds) Using healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter to cook foods is another great way to support optimal brain health and hormone production. There is no substitute for a healthy diet for fewer mood fluctuations and a better mental state. Foods rich in fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and lean protein create an environment that promote essential gut microbiota and mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters.
Learn more about functional nutrition for total mind-body health benefits and live the functional life that you truly deserve! If you are seeking an individualized functional nutrition plan that will empower you to improve your eating habits, energy levels, stress resiliency, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders, make an appointment with our health professionals today.
Our Functional Nutrition Provider at The Functional Medicine Center:
Our provider takes a root cause approach to help clients understand why certain foods may cause digestive issues such as heartburn, gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements, or hormonal imbalances such as mood swings, poor sleep, and fatigue. She is a firm believer in understanding the “WHY” behind undesirable symptoms and empowers her clients to improve their health through a holistic mind-body approach with an emphasis on nutrition, stress management, sleep, and daily movement. There is no “one-size-fits-all” nutrition plan, and her mission is to help others understand their unique needs so that they can feel their best while enjoying good food and living life without restrictions.
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