Health culture in the United States is rapidly declining as our overall culture is developing complacency in short-term conveniences that have long-term impacts on our health. From binge watching Netflix to resulting to fast foods since no one wants to really spend the time, or money, to cook. Yes, this our poor physical health choices have an impact on mental health. Believe it or not, both are strongly connected and neither can thrive without the other. I learned this the hard way when I went from being unhappy and overweight from accidentally depriving myself of everything I needed which resulted in 20 pound weight loss. This only worsened my depression and drove me to suicidal thoughts because I had an extreme vitamin deficiency and dehydration.
When I started getting my nutrients, I saw a huge difference in my mental health when I had originally thought I was chronically depressed. Before I knew it, I lost another 20 pounds just from trying to get what my body needed! When people ask about how I lost weight, I always tell them, "Eat healthy and get adequate exercise for your mental health's sake." When you realize that you need these things to mentally function, then you'll see an improvement in your physical health because you have mentally convinced yourself you need to take care of it. Maintaining your health is more mental than physical, and I say this because your mind is what chooses to break the poor physical health habits. Synthetic medications, in most cases, are not even necessary if you consume the right vitamins. And if you are prescribed these things, you won't receive full benefits of the medication without taking care of your physical health. Otherwise, you're doing more damage.
Doctors don’t tell you to drink plenty of water and get vitamins for fun—they have a good reason! I cannot stress how important it is that people are aware of their overall health because it is everything about who you are. Without it, you are not allowing yourself room for your higher potential physically or mentally. While I’m not going to outline an elaborate diet for you to follow, I will name off different things many people don’t consume enough of even though we all need to.
Okay, I’m sure most of you consume some water. I know people who only drink water (which we should strive to do too). Water is attainable through a variety of sources, but many also substitute water through what I call artificial means—i.e. sugar infested drinks such as soft drinks, sugary juices, and even alcohol. It’s easy to forget how important water is to our diets, so we continue to over-consume drinks that seem to satisfy this need—but it doesn’t.
These drinks essentially trick your brain into thinking it’s serving the same purpose as water so it tells your body to process it and extract what it can use. As oil is what keeps a car running smoothly, water is what keeps the brain running as well. Think about the car—you can put low quality oil in it for the time being, but it hurts your engine in the long run. In other words, not getting enough water and drinking other drinks is only satisfying short-term needs which psychologically trains the mind to think short-term. This likely will affect how you plan your diet, if you even plan. The long term consequences involves both your physical and mental health. When your mind doesn’t receive what it needs, neither will your body.
They say 8 glasses, but honestly just drink what you can. I’m a soft drink person, so I keep a bottle that I can keep at every meal for a few sips. This satisfies the craving, but I also keep a glass of water to satisfy my overall thirst. I’m not condemning anyone for drinking other drinks—I’m just saying make sure you get water, too.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the easiest vitamins to obtain, yet somehow many people don’t get enough of it! Vitamin D promotes bone growth and strength, aids in heart and immune health, and even has a direct impact on mood balance and brain function. Heart health is important because it’s responsible for cycling blood and oxygen through the body—which also is directly connected to mental performance. Even better part—it aids in weight loss as well as it helps with your metabolism!
Vitamin D can be achieved through sunlight, getting fresh air, vitamin supplements, and foods such as eggs, fish, yogurt, dairy, and so forth. As many people grow more accustomed to fast food and indoor Netflix binge sessions, many don’t make time to cook healthier foods or to get off the couch and get out of the house. Your physical and mental health need Vitamin D. If you’re going to be lazy, then look into multivitamins or Vitamin D supplements. Even moderate use of tanning beds can aid in Vitamin D production as well. That’s better than nothing.
3. Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty oils
Both Omega fatty oils are critical to your overall health, mentally and physically. While some necessary nutrients have more specific benefits, fatty oils have a long list of versatile health benefits. However, a lack of fatty oils can cause serious health complications and have a negative impact on your health. So in other words, it’s either you reap the benefits or suffer the consequences.
Fatty oils aid in mood balance, memory, attention, and other brain function while also circulating blood and oxygen to the brain—which is necessary for optimal mental health. Sources also mention how a deficiency in fatty oils have a large role in depression and anxiety—as having enough fatty oils aids in nerve function. For those of you who say depression is a “neurological disorder”—which is only slightly true— you should check into if you’re getting what your body needs. Especially your fatty oils. Foods that have these includes spinach, broccoli, soybeans, corn, nuts, avocados, salmon, sardines, etc.
If you find it difficult in incorporating these things into your diet, supplements also work. Go to your nearest pharmacy and purchase fish oils. Just make sure you are getting these.
I can’t stress this one enough. I know it seems we keep talking about nutrients that help circulate blood and oxygen through the body, but essentially that is what we function on. Optimal blood circulation is connected to better mental and physical health, so it’s critical that everyone gets a little bit of each of these things. Overall, iron does this as well as plays a role in energy and cell production in the body—hence why a lack thereof can show through skin health.
Iron is directly linked to mental health as a lack thereof results in fatigue, extreme tiredness, attention, depression, anxiety, and so forth. Myelin is a bodily chemical that aids in neurological health and specifically uses iron to do this. Neural activity is responsible for overall cognitive function, and a lack thereof will slow down neurological growth which can worsen depression. An iron deficiency is easily identifiable if one understands it exists. Luckily, iron can be found in cereals, wheat, seafood, spinach, chicken, etc. Also, iron supplements can help with those of you who struggle incorporating these things into your diet.
Potassium deficits aren’t so much an issue as the others mentioned in this article, but need we not forget to address it. Potassium is very important to mental health because it balances fluids that have a role in heart, nerve, and muscle functions. As mentioned earlier, neurological health is directly linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Meanwhile, heart health is connected to aiding oxygen circulation throughout the body.
Foods rich in potassium include salmon, bananas, nuts, potatoes, oranges, squash, spinach, yogurt, tomatoes, etc. However, keep in mind that you can get too much potassium, so it’s important to get enough, but not too much.
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is more known for beauty benefits, but it is more beneficial to your mental health than you’d think. While Vitamin E is an antioxidant, it has a large role in neurological functioning and hormone balance. Those anxieties and mood swings you may find yourself having? Get your vitamins, and Vitamin E is one of many great choices.
Vitamin E is more than a topical treatment—it should be consumed as well. Foods that have Vitamin E include tomatoes, spinach, avocado, nuts, seeds, salmon, mangos, kiwi, trout, peppers, asparagus, peanut butter, etc.
Magnesium is similar to potassium in the fact that deficiencies aren’t as common. However, magnesium is important to your mental health—especially when consuming most of the nutrients I’ve named thus far. MedicinePlus states that magnesium is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body which aids in heart, immune, and bone health. In addition, it maintains muscle and nerve function while aiding in energy and protein production. A lack of magnesium can also lead to fatigue and tiredness due to a lack of energy.
Magnesium supplements are not recommended, but luckily a variety of foods contain it. Foods include nuts, green vegetables, milk, whole grains, soy, and a variety of fruits such as bananas and avocados. Too much magnesium consumption is also unhealthy. Much like potassium, it is key to balance your magnesium intake.