We've all heard that an apple a day can keep a doctor away, but apples don't just keep you healthy; they help you stay happy too. So do bananas, berries and citrus fruits, all of which contain substances that can keep depression at bay.
Nutrition is one of the major controllable factors for sound mental health. You are what you eat, as simple as that. Foods not only make you look and feel different but can also impact your mental health, thinking, personality and character. There is a direct link between food and mood. In fact, when it comes to nourishing the brain, improving cognitive skills, enhancing memory, and managing brain disorders like dementia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and ADHD, the right nutrition is necessary, and thus, foods that contain nutrients like curcumin, zinc, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids are given huge importance.
You might have heard of how 'fruitarian' diets are magical, leading to weight loss and lending a wonderful glow to the skin amongst a host of other benefits. But recent research has revealed that snacking on fruits helps with your overall well-being and mental health. A study that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that those who had a diet that was rich in fruits apparently reported a more positive mental state and were not as prone to anxiety, depression and stress compared to those who didn't. Why is that so, one might wonder?
Experts believe that most fruits contain a lot of vitamin C, a key nutrient that provides a layer of protection to many organs in the body, especially the brain. There is also a multitude of other factors which contribute to better mental health as a result of fruit consumption.
Luke Coutinho, an integrative and lifestyle medicine and holistic nutrition expert, the founder of You Care - All about YOU believes that fruits are one of the best and most nutrient-dense sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are important for our gut and mental health. He elucidates, "Our mind and body are one, not two separate entities. In holistic health, we cannot separate the mind from the equation of good health. In fact, everything first starts with a thought. A thought becomes a feeling, which then turns into action, leading to an experience. And this operates vice versa. Anything happening in our body impacts our mind almost immediately."
In Coutinho's experience, one of the most ignored aspects of mental well-being is our gut health. He emphasises, "Every mental health care professional must focus on the gut. Most conditions stem from a gut that is compromised. And every third patient I consult has a gut issue, whether it's chronic acidity, constipation, or something like IBS, colitis, acid reflux and the like. Our gut and brain are intricately connected and are in constant communication all the time." He explains that 80-90 per cent of serotonin, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter, is produced in the gut."So, imagine when a gut isn't functioning to its optimum, it isn't even producing the right amount of serotonin. This speaks so much about why those who don't eat fruits feel a certain way if we even experience a stomach ache or cramp."
He further explains the relationship between fruits and mental health and how eating fruit regularly can help most of us.
Whether it's Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or Dementia, most mental health conditions are inflammatory in nature. Fruits being rich in antioxidants help counter high inflammation and free radicals.
Fruits form an important part of our rainbow diet. The brightly-coloured fruits (red, purple, orange, pink, and so on) promote a rich and diverse microbiome. As a matter of fact, the more colours on your plate, the more diverse your gut microbiome, and fruits help us add that colour. Fruits like bananas also act as prebiotics, which help feed the good bacteria in the gut. Fruits are a good source of fibre too. The fibre can help facilitate a smooth bowel movement, which also has an impact on mental health.
Certain fruits are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is required for serotonin production. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical (neurotransmitter), and individuals with anxiety and depression are usually running low on this.eg, banana, plums, kiwis, and pineapple.
Helps quell inflammation
Our gut and brain require a balance of all nutrients and micronutrients. With that said, fruits are a rich source of antioxidants that can help quell inflammation. This is important because most gut or mental health conditions are inflammatory in nature. Additionally, fruits help increase gut microbiome diversity. The more diverse your gut is, the better your gut and cognitive health are. A flourishing and diverse gut microbiome hugely impacts cognitive health but only relying on a fruit-based breakfast isn't the right approach. The only thing one needs to avoid is overdoing on fruits. Just because fruits are healthy doesn't mean we consume platters of fruits. Less is more. We will benefit more by adding 1-2 whole fruits a day on an empty stomach, as that is when nutrients are absorbed best.