Whole foods can boost mental health and wellness: study

Professor Emeritus at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, has devoted much of her career to clinical research understanding the causes and treatments for neurodevelopmental problems including mental health issues.

While it’s common knowledge that a healthy, balanced diet has its benefits, a recent study conducted by University of Calgary (UCalgary) researchers examines the role of nutrition in mental health.

Professor Emeritus at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, has devoted much of her career to clinical research understanding the causes and treatments for neurodevelopmental problems including mental health issues.

Recently, in collaboration with the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, a survey was conducted that highlighted why nutrition is so important for brain health.

“There are over 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications in the medical scientific literature showing that when we use a broad spectrum of minerals and vitamins to treat mental health problems, there are very large and significant effects for many people,” Kaplan said.

In the past, he says people studied treatments for disease one nutrient at a time. For example, to get rid of scurvy you take vitamin C.

However, a single nutrient for a single treatment approach to cure this disease is a false and ineffective assumption. Instead, researchers need to take a holistic approach to nutrition and physical and mental health and well-being.

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Kaplan adds that if you really want to optimize your brain health, you need to get about 15 vitamins, minerals, omega three fatty acids, plant nutrients, or phytonutrients found in plants, proteins and amino acids.

He says there is a direct link between eating nutritious food and how it affects your mental health making you less prone to anxiety or depression.

For example, if you feed your gut with good bacteria including prebiotic foods, these nutrients will be removed from your food and channeled into your bloodstream.

Kaplan adds that nearly 20 percent of our blood flow and metabolic activity performed by our brain comes from eating healthy foods that include these key nutrients.

“All these nutrients are what build our brains. And if you look at small children, especially omega-three fatty acids, especially DHA, which is one of the metabolites. This is what goes into the cell walls and builds the healthy brain cells we need. And then constant micronutrients are fed to our brain. They are what are called cofactors,” Kaplan said.

Cofactors are organic or inorganic molecules that are required for an enzyme to function. This vitamin component produces neurotransmitters so your brain can function better.

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Given the rising cost of living including today’s skyrocketing inflation, Kaplan also says that eating a whole foods diet isn’t too expensive as long as you follow Canada’s Food Guide and incorporate the right amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. suitable , and seeds.

“You know, there’s a myth out there that eating a whole foods diet is more expensive. And that’s because people haven’t found a way to make it cheap. But there are studies that show that you can save as much as 20 percent of your weekly food budget,” he explained.

“If you stop eating ultra-processed chemicals, which are very expensive, you’re only putting maybe $2 into the vending machine at a time. But within a week, you really wasted a lot of money. Stop eating that.” He also adds that since most of the pre-packaged and processed foods in your local supermarket contain sugar or added sugar, it is important to stay away from the addiction to artificial sweeteners.”

Kaplan says about half of North Americans’ diets don’t have enough nutrients.

“Ultra-processed foods, Pop-Tarts, chips, and pretzels, have basically zero vitamins and minerals. So we as a society voluntarily reduce our intake of vitamins and minerals by 50 percent,” said Kaplan

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Although there are many diet trends, Kaplan recommends the Mediterranean diet the most.

“If you buy dried beans and lentils, great, that’s incredibly cheap. If you don’t have time to cook dried beans, you can get them in cans that are still cheap,” he said.

Kaplan added that given the epidemic of mental health issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to educate the public about the role of nutrition and its long-term effects on mental health well-being.

Especially, he said, for young people who will return to campus after a two-year hiatus and subsist on ramen and soda, it is inappropriate because they will not be able to pay attention during class lectures or study sessions.

“I personally think that everyone who goes to seek help for mental health in any form will benefit, maybe not all of them will benefit, but it is appropriate to educate them all about the ways in which they are instilled in them. mouth affects their brain health [and] we would have a huge impact if we considered that as a pre-treatment for mental health clinics.”


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