The Secret to Improving Your Mental Health Is in Your Gut

By Rippan Sandhu

According to Ayurveda 
“When the diet is wrong medicine is of no use... When the Diet is correct, medicine is of no need”.

This may come as a shock to you but the secret to improving your mental health is in your gut! The food you eat not only nourishes your body, but also has the capacity to give your mental health a boost. Everything about food - how we prepare it, what we choose to eat, what environment we cook in and how we feel when we create meals, every small thing adds up to creating a healthy meal – both for your body and mind! Now, even neuroscience acknowledges the link between our gut and brain.

The state of our mental health is often a result of how we sleep and how we feel, which are closely connected to the food we consume. So here are our top 4 types of foods recommended by Ayurveda to help you cultivate better mental health.

1. Fresh fruits and Vegetables
This one is a no brainer! Rather than grabbing a pie or burger for lunch, try going green."Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you keep calm", says a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And, a 2013 study from the University of Otago found that college students tended to feel calmer, happier, and more energetic on days they ate more fruits and veggies. Moreover, most fresh fruits and vegetables are considered to be ‘Sattvic’ or pure according to Ayurveda, which promote physical and mental wellbeing, happiness and mental clarity.

2. Nuts and healthy fats
The very act of eating nuts, nutrition value aside, has a positive impact on your mental health.  The rhythmic movement of shelling nuts like pistachios or peanuts will help you relax while the added step of cracking open a shell slows down your eating, making pistachios a diet-friendly snack. The nuts contain key phytonutrients that may provide antioxidant support for cardiovascular health. Apart from nuts, Ghee is considered to be one of the best sources of good fat. We can’t rave about Ghee more – it not only tastes delicious but also has a calming effect on your nervous system.

3. Spicy Spices!
Eating all the healthy, wholesome foods in the world is of little use if your body cannot absorb the nutrients and use them for building healthy body tissue. Spices help you do just that! According to Ayurveda, each meal should contain all six flavours for maintaining balance: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. And what flavour we like the most depends on our Dosha. For example, a Vata-predominant person will favour heavier meals with sour and salty tastes. A Kapha-predominant person may favour more pungent meals, and a Pitta-predominant person more sweet flavours. But irrespective of what spices you prefer, they all have therapeutic value and offer excellent digestive support and immunity boosting properties, in addition to adding flavour and aroma to your dishes.

4. Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha are known to have calming properties, helping to manage anxiety and stress. Referred to as a Medhya Rasayana or brain tonic in Ayurveda, Ashwagandha helps to boost immunity, energize the body while keeping the nervous system calm. It builds the body’s resilience to physical and mental stress, thus immensely helping in improving overall mental health.

Ayurda Cooking Tip!
Did you know that according to Ayurveda, the vibration of the cook's feelings affects the way your food turns out? Though we can’t always control the way we feel, we should be mindful of our thoughts while cooking. Always cook in a clean ventilated space with fresh local produce as much as possible and with a healthy dose of love!

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