”Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.”
– Eckhart Tolle
There are so many amazing things we can gain through the practice of yoga: flexibility, balance, strength. There’s nothing like the feeling of finally holding your first handstand or mastering your Vinyasa flow. However, the journey of getting there is the important part. It takes patience, determination, focus, and many other factors that must come from within.
Mental and physical health are deeply interconnected. When we think of having patience, determination, focus, etc., we think of that as mental ability. Physically, we think of our organs, systems, nutrients, circulation, and so on. What we often fail to remember, is that if either our mental or physical health is out of balance, it can also throw off the other.
What we often fail to remember, is that if either our mental or physical health is out of balance, it can also throw off the other.
One way to improve your physical and mental health is by making sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients in your diet. There are many nutrients that play a large role in both physical and mental health. By consuming the right amount of these nutrients, you could improve strength and focus, which will greatly enhance your practice.
Nutrients that Affect Our Mind and Body
Below is a list of key nutrients that affect mental and physical health. Some help you cope with stress, others improve concentration, and many improve energy and overall mood.
Vitamin B2 [Riboflavin]
- About: Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, plays a large role in energy production and metabolism, growth, cell development, regulation of thyroid hormones, and much more. All B Vitamins play a large role in brain and cellular function. Low levels of B vitamins have been associated with mood disorders.
- Food Sources: Beef liver, fortified cereals and oats, yogurt, milk, beef, clams, mushrooms, almonds, cheese
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): Adult Males 1.3mg, Adult Females 1.1mg, Pregnant 1.4mg, Lactating 1.6mg
Vitamin B9 [Folate]
- About: Vitamin B9, Folate, has very important roles in DNA synthesis and amino acid metabolism. It helps convert homocysteine into methionine which is crucial for many processes, but also protects against elevated homocysteine which could lead to heart disease, brittle bones, and Alzheimer’s Disease. If you are deficient in folate, you could experience weakness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
- Food Sources:Dark leafy greens, brussels sprouts, liver, fruit, fruit juices, nuts, seeds, beans, peas
- RDA: Adult Males 400 mcg DFE*, Adult Females 400 mcg DFE, Pregnant 600 mcg DFE, Lactating 500 mcg DFE
- *DFE means “food folate” 1 mcg DFE equals 0.6 mcg folic acid from supplements or fortified foods. It is important to know the difference when using supplements.
- About: Vitamin C is an antioxidant and also a key player in the synthesis of collagen. Vitamin C is a factor in the synthesis of neurohormones like catecholamines that affect cognition. Although Vitamin C deficiencies are rare in developed countries, it is possible in people with limiting diets or those with absorptive issues. Vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy, causes fatigue, malaise, and swelling of the gums.
- Food Sources: Citrus fruits, tomatoes, tomato juice, potatoes, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe
- RDA: Adult Males 90mg, Adult Females 75mg, Pregnant 85mg, Lactating 120mg, Smokers require 35mg more per day than non-smokers
- About: Vitamin D3 has many roles in the body, but one of the most important is dietary calcium uptake and maintenance of optimal bone mineralization. Lower blood levels of Vitamin D3 have been associated with depressive symptoms.
- Food Sources: Most is synthesized in our bodies with sunlight, salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish liver oils
- RDA: Adult Males 600 IU, Adult Females 600 IU, Pregnant 600 IU, Lactating 600 IU, >70 years 800 IU
- About: Magnesium is a mineral that aids in muscle and nerve function, glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Low magnesium levels have been associated with depression. People with gastrointestinal disease, type II diabetes, alcohol dependance, and older adults are at risk for magnesium inadequacy. Some symptoms of magnesium deficiency are vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weakness.
- Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fortified foods
- RDA 19–30 yrs: Male 400, Female 310 mg, Pregnant 350 mg, Lactating 310 mg
- RDA 31–50 yrs: Male 420, Female 320 mg, Pregnant 360 mg, Lactating 320 mg
- RDA 51+ yrs: Male 420, Female 320
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- About: Omega-3 fatty acids have many important roles in the body, especially heart health. However, they’re also associated with reduced risk of Alzheimers disease, declined cognitive function, and dementia. Roughly 80% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of omega-3’s in their daily diets.
- Food Sources: Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, & plant oils that contain ALA like flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.
- Adequate Intake (AI): Adult Males 1.6 g, Adult Females 1.1 g, Pregnant, 1.4 g Lactating 1.3 g
- About: Zinc is involved in many functions in the body. It is involved in wound healing, immune function, growth and development, and much more. There are large amounts of zinc in the hippocampus and a zinc deficiency has been associated with mood disorders and impaired memory formation.
- Food Sources: Oysters, Red Meat, Poultry, Beans, Nuts, Seafood, Fortified Grains, Dairy
- RDA: Adult Males 11 mg, Adult Females 8 mg, Pregnant 11 mg, Lactating 12 mg
Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy — A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068