Is the connection between the central nervous system and the digestive system made by chemical messengers, such as serotonin, which transmit information to the brain? High serotonin makes us feel better and, as carbohydrates speed up its production, these are foods that we easily enjoy.

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Is the Mediterranean Diet an example of healthy eating that contributes to mental health? Not only because of the ingredients it includes, but also because of the lifestyle and table conviviality associated with it.

But then, how do we combine food with our mental health?

In addition to mood changes, for a long time the impact of food on mental health was seen essentially as the consequence of the imbalance of certain nutrients in the body, namely their absence. However, the link between nutritional deficiencies or excesses (such as consumption of sugar, salt, preservatives, fats) and health goes far beyond potential cardiovascular, oncological diseases, obesity or diabetes.

Mental health is also directly impacted by these imbalances, which can lead to greater susceptibility to depression, anxiety or cognitive deficits. This is noticed both in populations with difficulties accessing a healthy diet, and in people who choose processed foods, snacks and less healthy drinks on a daily basis.

More than the quantity of certain foods, it is through the variety of meals that we can ensure a healthy diet, with effects on the body and mind. The objective is to ensure, in addition to nutritional levels, the stability of the intestinal microbiota - the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our digestive system - in order to enhance the correct production of neurotransmitters and neuroprotectors.

On the other hand, our lifestyle, the existence or not of diseases, or the possibility of the influence of genetic or hereditary factors, can lead us to choose certain foods on a daily basis that are not always healthy. A nutritionist or your doctor can help you define a correct eating plan. And it’s not just about preparing and consuming food; Cooking, alone or with other people, and socialising at meals, at home or in a public place, also help to ensure good mental health.

Discover the effect of some foods on brain health:

Fatty acids present in olive oil and fish rich in omega-3 promote the functioning of neurons, improve cognitive performance and strengthen the immune system.

The amino acids present in proteins accelerate the production of serotonin and melatonin, reducing stress and positively influencing the quality of sleep.

Simple carbohydrates, such as refined sugars, can affect memory. Complex carbohydrates, such as fibre and whole grains, have anti-inflammatory effects.

Vitamins preserve memory (vitamin B), prevent neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases (vitamin D) and have antioxidant power (vitamin E).

Minerals have effects on stress, neuron maintenance and sleep cycles.

Berries, nuts, green leafy vegetables and whole grains have polyphenols that delay cognitive decline. Vegetables from the cabbage family are anti-inflammatory and antioxidants.

For more information please contact Grupo HPA Saude on (+351) 282 420 400.