Power of Plants – How to Improve Your Mental Health
What we eat has a significant impact on our overall health and the functionality of our brain. Certain foods contain L-Tryptophan which is an essential amino acid that our bodies do not produce naturally, meaning we need to obtain this crucial nutrient by eating the right types of food.
The difference between a non-essential amino acid compared to an essential amino acid is that the body cannot produce an essential amino acid without digesting the appropriate foods, which is why ingesting foods that contain L-Tryptophan are vital.
What happens when we ingest foods that contain L-Tryptophan?
From understanding how L-Tryptophan aids in boosting your mood and your sleep, we can start to see how eating a diet rich in this crucial amino acid can have a positive and long-lasting effect on better mental health.
When we eat foods that contain L-Tryptophan our bodies absorb and transfer this into Serotonin and Melatonin.
Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body, and about 95% of your serotonin is produced through your gut which is lined with millions of nerve cells that link to your brain and guide your emotions.
Having low levels of Serotonin are linked with depression and anxiety, and as a result, you may not be functioning at your full potential.
Eva Selhub, MD and Author at Harvard Health Blog, describes our brains as always being “on”, even when we are sleeping so for a healthy mind, we must feed ourselves with the correct fuel which comes from eating a healthy diet.
Melatonin is produced through our Pineal Gland and is a hormone responsible for our wake/sleep functions, it signals to our brain light and dark matter and is the primary hormone which controls our sleep patterns.
If your Melatonin levels are low at night when you should be sleeping this can cause you to stay awake and not get a good night’s sleep, meaning you will be prone to having mood swings and showing signs of fatigue and perhaps depression if you don’t have this issue addressed.
We all want to live the life best lived, and it is coming apparent that by improving our diets, we do in fact, improve our mental health.
Dr Michael Gregor M.D founder of Nutrition Facts.org and Author of “How Not to Die” says it best “While Positive mental states may be associated with less stress and more resilience to infection, positive well-being might also be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle”.
While proper nutrition may help improve mental health, it is essential to understand that it is not a replacement for appropriate treatment. Always consult a doctor if you are experiencing depression.
The Link Between Mental Health and our Gut
Understanding the link between our brain and our gut can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you’ve been excited, scared or nervous? Or all of sudden need to use the toilet, say before a presentation?
That is because the relationship between the brain and our gastrointestinal system are intimately connected.
In an article published by Harvard Medical School, they say “The gut-brain connection is no joke; it can link anxiety to stomach problems and vice versa.”
When you consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes your digestive system is able to break these down into smaller components enabling your mind and body to function at ultimate levels which has a direct impact on your overall mental health; that is, you are putting the right fuel in.
On the other hand, eating a poor-quality diet can increase your risk for common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
We now know that eating foods which contain the essential amino acid L-Tryptophan is crucial for its ability to provide our bodies with Serotonin (the happy chemical) and Melatonin (the sleep hormone).
The Difference Between Plant-Based Sources of L-Tryptophan and Animal Sources?
Eating animal products and their by-products also contain high amounts of cholesterol, antibiotics, hormones and steroids, and it is well known that eating meat raises your risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Additionally, Animal Agriculture is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions and the number one cause of animal cruelty and deforestation.
When we understand the adverse side effects of eating meat, dairy and eggs, it does make it easier to look for and find alternative foods which will provide your body with the necessary L-Tryptophan doses to improve your mood and sleep.
Below I have listed 4 main food groups which contain high amounts of this essential amino acid.
4 Types of Plant Foods Containing L-Tryptophan for improved mental health and sleep;
Fruits & Vegetables – Apples, Bananas, Peaches, Avocado, Spinach, Broccoli, Turnip Greens, Asparagus, Onions.
Nuts & Seeds – Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds and walnuts.
Soy Products – Tofu, fortified soy milk and soy beans.
Legumes – Beans, split peas, lentils, black and kidney beans.
What Can We Do?
Now we know the importance of L-Tryptophan for our brain health and the impact it has for stabilising such things as mental health and sleep.
For the average adult research has shown that the required amount of L-Tryptophan daily is between 8-12 grams.
The below table lists some plant-based sources of L-Tryptophan per food.
Source of table – Wikipedia
Alternatively, you can also take extra steps to naturally boost your serotonin levels by exercising, spending time in nature and meditating.
It is important to note that exercise is a major part of life and if you follow a diet rich in plant-based foods than you are on the right path to good mental health.
If you are interested in learning more about how to become a vegan or you are genuinely curious as to what it means to be vegan and how we can save the animals. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a diet.
I have listed some videos that I personally recommend for all to see.
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