You are what you eat, and so is your brain, which means so is your mood. How can a plant-based diet affect your emotional health? Let’s first define the term.
Emotional health is your emotional intelligence plus your emotional resilience. Emotional intelligence includes your sense of self and self-awareness along with your ability to understand and communicate with others. And emotional resilience is your ability to process emotional states, let them pass, and move forward with your life.
What does any of this have to do with a plant based diet?
When talking about how to build unshakeable emotional health, I discuss five pillars: your psychology, your relationships, your nutrition, your sleep, and your exercise. A whole food, plant-based diet can go a long way to build the nutritional excellence necessary for strong emotional health.
Your “gut microbiome” is trillions of bacteria and other organisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract. They outnumber our own cells by a massive margin. We often think of ourselves as a single entity, but research shows that microbes in our gut are actually responsible for many of our necessary body functions. We’re more like super-organisms. We give the microbes a place to live, and they provide us optimal body function.
One of those functions includes the gut-brain axis.
The link between our gut and our brain is significant. Did you know that 90% of our neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that drive our nervous system, are actually generated in our gut?. Serotonin, for instance, is important for mood regulation, sleep, memory, appetite regulation, and more. About 90% of that serotonin in our body comes from our gut. Taking care of our gut health and brain health go hand-in-hand.
When we look at which foods foster the right types of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, research indicates fiber is the single most important nutrient. Also, fiber isn’t just helpful for allowing us to poop. Fiber that was previously thought to be insoluble (because humans can’t create the enzymes to break them down) is actually being digested by our gut microbes. And in return, it provides us with short-chain fatty acids that serve a variety of functions in the body: regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, correct dysbiosis, optimize the immune system, improve blood sugar regulation, and improved cognition.
To create a more vibrant gut microbiome, also, it is important to consume a wide variety of whole plant foods to diversify your sources of fiber. The greater the variety of whole plants, the greater the diversity of healthy gut bacteria.
A diverse, vibrant gut microbiome will, among other things, provide us a high level of neurotransmitter function and cognition. And if our nervous system is functioning optimally, we’re more in charge of our thoughts and feelings, leading to stronger more resilient emotional health.
How many varieties of whole plants have you eaten today? Try to challenge yourself to include more, and enjoy the benefits of unshakeable emotional health.