You’ve probably heard that having a healthy diet is good for your heart and can help prevent diseases like diabetes and obesity. But did you know that what you eat can also affect your mental health?
Our brains are complex organs that need certain nutrients to perform at their best. Not only that, these nutrients can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and help you keep a healthy mind long into the future.
5 Foods that Boost Mental Health
Plenty of doctors and health care professionals will tell you that eating healthy is key to maintaining positive mental health, but healthy eating can entail a lot. We’ve narrowed down 5 foods that you should prioritize when you’re looking to boost your mental health:
Omega-3’s aren’t just good for your heart. These fatty acids have a direct effect on our brains, affecting our mood and cognition. Omega-3’s, which are abundantly found in fish like salmon, specifically affect the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, reducing symptoms of depression, ADHD, and other mental disorders. In addition, omega-3’s support synapses in the brain, which can improve learning and memory.
Other than salmon, a great source of omega-3’s are chia seeds, walnuts, and spinach.
Our brain, like the rest of our organs, needs energy to function properly. The brain primarily uses glucose as its energy source, and glucose comes from carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, as opposed to simple carbohydrates, release glucose slowly and provide a stabilized source of energy.
Some examples of healthy whole grains include whole wheat bread and pasta, wild rice, beans, barley, and oats.
Protein, like carbohydrates, is essential to the functioning of the brain and has a direct impact on serotonin levels. The amino acid tryptophan, which is found in protein, is responsible for the production of serotonin in the brain. In return, your mood can be particularly influenced by how much protein you’re getting.
Lean sources of protein include fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and beans.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens provide more than just cancer-fighting benefits. Leafy greens are high in folic acid, which can affect your mood, energy, and sleep. If you’re lacking a dietary source of folic acid or other B vitamins, you’re likely to feel fatigued, suffer from insomnia, or even experience depression.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, mustard greens, and broccoli are all an excellent source of folic acid. As an alternative, beets and lentils are also good sources.
Yogurt isn’t just good for gut health. Yogurt with active cultures can help reduce anxiety and stress hormones because of yogurt’s effect on GABA, an inhibitatory neurotransmitter.
Probiotic foods like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha can all be really helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Dietary Changes for a Healthy Mind
While maintaining a healthy heart or preventing diabetes are important concerns, mental health is often left out of the discussion. Anxiety, depression, and other neurological disorders are real conditions that affect millions of people.
By paying attention to what we eat and making sure we’re getting essential nutrients into our diet, we can prevent many of the mental health conditions that affect so many in the world today.
Healthy Diet, Healthy Brain: 15 Foods for Mental Health. (2017, November 02). Retrieved March 29, 2018, from https://www.rtor.org/2017/09/12/healthy-diet-healthy-brain/
Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind: 5 Foods to Improve Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/real-healing/201301/healthy-gut-healthy-mind-5-foods-improve-mental-health