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Feeding the body and mind  

by Salaamedia Intern

When examining our diet, one does not factor in the impact or effect the foods we eat could have on our mind. Often, these two concepts are not understood together. However, through recent research it is evident there is a correlation between them.  

A person’s diet is designed mostly around improving their physical health. Most times we neglect the effect our choice in foods have on our mental health. The gastrointestinal tract has become synonymous with brain and emotions. The tract, which homes bacteria, acts as neurotransmitters which are distinguished as “good” or “bad”. Good bacteria are bacteria that positively affects neurotransmitters and bad bacteria refers to bacteria that causes inflammation, harming its production. Neurotransmitters are key in digestive system as they help carry messages to the brain. When affected by bad bacteria it can harm the clarity of the message passed on.  

Our brain is a vital component in the body, as it is essentially the command centre of the body. The brain is constantly working and in control of our thoughts, emotions, and daily actions. In order to manage these tasks, it requires the proper nutrients to fuel it. Faaizah Laher, a dietician, described what is considered good brain food.  

“Eating high quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, lots of minerals, lots of antioxidants that nourishes the brain and protects it from any oxidative stress, is the best diet for our brains.” 

Good versus bad food for the mind 

From this we understand that food can be good for the brain. It therefore insinuates that certain foods on the other hand can be harmful to the brain. In the case a person neglects the option to take in good brain food they promote the negatives associated with bad brain food. Laher elaborated on what is considered bad foods for the brain. 

“Our brains can get damaged if we ingest too little calories or calories that are calorie dense. Substances from our low premium fuels like our refined foods or processed foods get to the brain and can get rid of these substances. Diets high in refined sugar, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening our bodies regulation to insulin, it promotes inflammation and oxidative stress.”  

The correlation between our diets and mental well-being proves to be stronger than often displayed. As a bad brain diet has shown to worsen cases of depression and anxiety, which are two of the highest cases of mental illness. It is imperative that we factor in diet when addressing mental illnesses and/or problems. 

Relationship between diet and the mind

The gut is the first place of contact between the food and our nervous system. It is key that we make reparations here to address the issues. The changes in diet to assist the issues will help bring more fruitful results. To bring this change into one’s diet is not that drastic. Laher shared tips on how we can implement this change.  

“Eating regularly is very important because it helps us to control our blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar levels drop, we feel tired and then we get a temper. Hydration is especially important, mild hydration can affect anyone’s mood, energy levels, and the ability to concentrate. Fats are coming out as an indicator of how we can manage our mental health disorders, looking at plant-based fats and marine fats. We need to avoid trans fats. Whole grains are important because they give us a slow release of blood sugar.  

The relationship between our diet and mind and therefore mental state proves to be more independent and is something that all persons should take into consideration when attempting to address mental health problems. Najma Khota in conversation with Faaizah Laher.

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