As a parent, you likely want to do everything that you possibly can for your child to ensure they live the best life possible. If your child is in those teenage years this might prove more difficult than imagined, but you have gotten this far. There aren’t many more years left where you’ll be able to instill good values into your child, so it is more than important to use what little time you have. And, the best place to start is nutrition. You’ve likely heard just how nutrition is important to mental health. You might not know right down to the letter how nutrition can affect one’s mental health, but you’ve likely seen some show or seen an article on the Internet covering the topic.
And that is exactly what this article is going to do. It will layout out everything you need to know about nutrition and teenage mental health. Teenagers rarely eat right and you need to know exactly how it is affecting them so you can help your teen make the right changes in his or her life.
Nutrition and Teen’s Mental Health
Declining Cognitive Function
You’ve likely heard plenty of talk in the past about omega-3 fatty acids. People are boasting about this substance and it is on nearly every talk show, news report, or Internet health site. Well, you might not know that it can be a big contributor to mental health as well.
These essential fats are responsible for making up a component of the fatty membrane that encases your nerve cells. Not only this, but these fats play a huge role in the functioning of those nerves as well. Simply put, not enough consumption and it is going to lead to a decline in mental health. It is recommended for an average teen to get at least 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day. It’s challenging finding healthy recipes that teens will like. There are plenty of delectable recipes on the web like Corrie Cooks. Recipes that provide ingredients delivering the required nutritional amounts. These are dishes that your teen will like and beg for more of!
Depression is already a condition that is growing more and more common amongst teens every year. Not only are these numbers up, but the number of teenage suicides is up as well, as teens now have to deal with more things than they ever have before. Cyberbullying and racism are just the two at the forefront. That aside, you might be surprised that vitamin deficiencies can be linked to depression.
That’s right, not getting enough vitamin B-3 or B-12 can eventually lead to depression (1). Vitamin D also correlates with depression, but this is likely something that your teens get enough of when he or she’s outdoors. Whatever the situation, a diet rich and high in the right vitamins can prevent depression and help preserve an overall better emotional state for your teen. Fish and meat are excellent boosters of vitamin B-3 as well as B-12. Throw in some dairy products like eggs and you’ll get that extra boost of much-needed vitamin D as well.
The Power Of Thiamin
You can look up healthy food or healthy recipes and 90% of the time you’ll see an abundance of items like grain products, pork products, legumes, nuts, seeds, and organ meats. Want to know what all these items have in common and why they are so abundantly featured? It comes down to one key nutrient or vitamin. And that is thiamin.
Thiamin is a nutrient that helps with the metabolizing process. If you didn’t already know it, glucose is the brain’s primary energy source. Glucose comes from the metabolizing process. When you eat foods, your body metabolizes them and turns them into stored energy that can later be used and accessed by the brain. Without the B vitamin thiamin, your body would not be able to turn these foods into glucose. Not only this, but thiamin is also needed to create several essential neurotransmitters in the brain as well.
You probably already know that alcohol dependency causes a number of negative conditions in the brain (2). This article won’t go into great depth describing these conditions or how they affect the brain, but what you need to know is it basically results in a thiamin deficiency. Excessive drinking leads to a thiamin deficiency, which leads to unwanted mental health conditions because it slows and weakens the production of glucose. Since not eating the right foods will virtually do the same thing, you can see where this is headed.
Take Advantage of Folic Acid
Here is another B vitamin that can be found in foods like liver, asparagus, fried beans, wheat, broccoli, and nuts. It can even be found in some grain products, but that is beside the point. What’s really important in this situation is that folic acid is involved with protein metabolism as well as the metabolism of essential amino acids, in particular methionine. When your frolic acid levels are low, you will not be able to produce methionine.
Methionine is an amino acid that interacts with the blood, and when it is low it will cause excessive levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine increases the risk of heart disease as well as stroke. Even with lower levels of methionine in the blood, you’ll be more vulnerable to these types of conditions.
However, there are also newer studies suggesting that lower levels of methionine can also be linked with mental disorders. Mental disorders like depression. While this is a highly controversial discussion and topic, there is scientific proof that folic acid is linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the feel-good hormone so you can imagine if your body doesn’t produce enough, you aren’t going to feel as good as you normally would or should.
What About Niacin
If you look up meats, grains, fish, wheat bran products, and peanuts, you’ll find that they are teeming with niacin. This is just another B vitamin, but it is responsible for the production of many mental symptoms like irritability, headaches, memory loss, inability to sleep, and emotional instability. Severe niacin deficiency can potentially even lead to conditions like pellagra, which can eventually progress to psychosis, delirium, coma, and death.
Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2008). Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutrition journal, 7, 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-7-2
Syed, E. U., Wasay, M., & Awan, S. (2013). Vitamin B12 supplementation in treating major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. The open neurology journal, 7, 44–48. https://doi.org/10.2174/1874205X01307010044
Topiwala, A., Allan, C. L., Valkanova, V., Zsoldos, E., Filippini, N., Sexton, C., … & Kivimäki, M. (2017). Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. bmj, 357, j2353.