Photo courtesy of Hispanicize

Mental health is as important as physical health. Likewise, nutrition is vital for our body to function properly and be full of energy. The brain also needs the right fuel to work clearly.

This is something we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. As cases increased and cities went into lockdown, people looked for ways to alleviate high anxiety levels. Often, that relief was found in food.

Poor eating habits during the pandemic contributed to the rise in depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, especially in vulnerable communities such as Latinos.

While science has insisted on focusing research on the relationship of food to physical health, we talk little about its impact on mental health.

Let’s start at the beginning.

How does food affect your mind?

There is a connection between the gut and the brain, also known as the gut-brain axis. Studies show that the production of neurotransmitters that are directly related to your mood and emotions, such as dopamine and serotonin, is stimulated by the microbes found in the gut. So, since it is in our gastrointestinal tract where the greatest amount of serotonin is produced, it makes sense to have a healthy diet to take care of our minds. 

When we lose sight of our eating habits and our diet becomes high in processed and refined foods, we can expect the opposite and feel how moods change. The brain no longer functions in the same way, even worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The importance of Latino food

Some studies show how more ‘regular’ diets, such as the Mediterranean diet or diets followed in Latin America, can reduce the symptoms of some mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress. 

Diets in Latin American countries are rich in healthy foods. Although many of our dishes have been adapted over the years, we can still maintain our favorite recipes with cleaner and less processed ingredients. 

Specifically, the Peruvian diet is one of the healthiest in Latin America because it has many superfoods produced in the region. Quinoa, corn, beans, cacao, and acai are just small examples of the wide variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods from Latin America that can be added to any diet to improve health.