How Eating Carbs Can Improve Your Mental Health
When we think about nutrition and its impact on our wellbeing, we often focus on the physical benefits – maintaining a healthy shape, supporting our immune system, and promoting overall vitality. However, the relationship between nutrition and mental health is equally significant. Carbohydrates, often misunderstood, play a crucial role in improving mental health.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients, alongside protein and fat. They are the body’s primary source of energy and come in two main forms: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, found in sugary foods and drinks, provide quick but short-lived energy. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are found in foods like wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and they provide sustained, long-lasting energy.
So, how do carbohydrates influence our mental well-being?
Happy Hormone Production
Carbohydrates play a key role in the production of serotonin, often referred to as the “feel-good” chemical in the body. Serotonin helps regulate mood and emotions. This can help combat feelings of anxiety and depression.
Stabilising Blood Sugar Levels
The body’s primary energy source is from carbohydrates. When you consume complex carbohydrates, they slowly breakdown and release energy gradually. This helps maintain stable blood sugar levels, which are essential for mood stability. Fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to mood swings and irritability.
Boosting Cognitive Function
The brain relies on carbohydrates to function at its best. Consuming complex carbohydrates ensures a steady supply of energy to the brain, improving focus and memory. A diet rich in carbohydrates can help combat mental fatigue and promote clear thinking.
During stressful situations, the body’s cortisol levels rise. Consuming carbohydrates helps clear excessive stress hormones from the body. This process can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
A restful night’s sleep is crucial for mental health. Carbohydrates, particularly complex ones, can aid in the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. A balanced diet can help ensure you get the sleep you need to maintain a healthy mind.
It’s important to emphasise the quality of carbohydrates you consume. Opt for complex carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed foods like wholegrains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa), fruits and vegetables. These sources provide essential nutrients, fibre, and antioxidants, which further support overall health.
In conclusion, carbohydrates are not the dietary villains they are sometimes portrayed as. When chosen wisely and consumed in moderation, they can significantly contribute to improved mental health. By stabilising mood, providing consistent energy, and supporting brain function, carbohydrates play an essential role in nurturing both your body and mind. Remember, a balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates can be a key ingredient in your recipe for mental well-being.