Have you heard of the saying “we are what we eat”? The types and amounts of food that you eat have an influence on your overall health, both in a positive and in a negative way. Scientific research shows thatwhat you eat can increase or reduce your risk for developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and even some forms of cancer.If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, the chance of getting such a chronic disease is much higher. An unhealthy lifestyle includes eating a lot of processed foods and “bad” fats, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. A lack of exercise, too little sleep and having very few social contacts also contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. On the contrary, adopting a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, regular exercise and social involvement improves your everyday health and longevity.
ut did you know that these lifestyle factors are also beneficial for mental health? The brain is an organ in our body, just like the heart, liver, lungs and gut. So, taking good care of your body means also taking good care of your brain. For optimal functioning, the brain needs many elements that come from the food we eat. The typical Western diet of ultra-processed foods does not adequately meet the brain’s nutritional requirements. Essentially, a healthy diet is important for a healthy brain. Research shows that adhering to a whole-foods diet can improve emotional resilience and lower the risk of developing mental health problems.
The connection between diet and mental wellbeing stems from the close relationship between the brain and the gut. Our intestines are home to billions of microorganisms, called gut microbiota. The gut bacteria help us to digest our food and produce essential elements that our body – including our brain – needs. Eating healthy food promotes the growth of “good” bacteria, which in turn positively affect our health. A steady diet of junk food, on the other hand, can cause inflammation and harm the gut. Disturbances in the gut can lead to changes in brain function, and through that our mood and cognition.