We know there is an important connection between food and mental health. A deficiency of various nutrients can cause mental disorders. This is especially apparent in regards to anxiety and depression. These nutrients include particular vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega 3 fatty acids. Most experts agree it is better to get these nutrients from food as opposed to supplements.
There is a relationship between nutrients in food that cannot be recreated in supplements. Many nutrients rely on other nutrients to do their job. Like, the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, calcium is not absorbed. And the amino acid, tryptophan, needs vitamin B6 to convert to the neurotransmitter, serotonin.
When we eat a variety of healthy food our body gets the combinations of nutrients it needs to feed the brain. Our brains use these nutrients to stabilize our moods and give clarity to our thinking.
Here are some of the most nutrient-enriched and readily available, foods for the best mental health:
Did you know beans are also one of the top food choices for a healthy and happy brain?
Full of fiber and antioxidants, beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans, for example) keep you fuller for longer, keeping your blood sugar stable and enabling you to burn energy (which we know is essential for good mental health). Beans also contain vitamin thiamine, that is needed for the production of acetylcholine.
We’ve heard the loud praises leafy greens seem to get for everything including mental health. Join it if you can’t beat it.
According to a study published in Neurology, people who regularly consumed daily servings of leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens have a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who avoided piling their plates with greens.
If you want a snack to help your long-term brain health, make it a handful of walnuts. They look like a brain for a reason.
Walnuts are full of antioxidants, helping to inhibit oxidation in the brain and body. Even these nuts can also lead to the growth of new neurons. It means walnuts can help us to grow new brain cells, an essential aspect of maintaining good mental health.
If you’ve ever spruiked the benefits of yogurt for an upset stomach, you may be doing yourself more of a favor than you think.
Many people enjoy yogurt for the added benefit of probiotics (which help your digestive system to run smoothly), however recent research has stated that, thanks to the brain-gut connection, probiotics found in cultures such as yogurt can also impact a person’s mental health, assisting in lowering levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
There’s a reason carbs are so delightful – and they don’t have to take a back seat in your daily diet.
According to studies, whole grains are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin (aka, the ‘feel-good hormone’). Serotonin helps in calming the mind, maintaining a steady sleep cycle and improving your mood.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries – if you’re looking for the perfect snack to get your antioxidant fix, this is it. Antioxidants assist in repairing cells, as well as assisting in combating inflammation caused by free radical damage. By reducing the damages caused by free radicals (found in pollutants, cigarette smoke, and other nasties), these antioxidants have also been found to assist in improving symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
As a bonus, berries (blueberries and strawberries) also contain a compound called polyphenolics, which have been found to improve memory, concentration and attention span.
Why we have always heard that fish is good for the brain? Let me introduce the wonders of DHA (the little fatty acid)
DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid, which helps improve both short and long-term memory, contributing to optimal brain health. Additionally, high in Omega 3 fatty acids diet can also help to boost feelings of mental health and wellness and reduce levels of anxiety.
Find DHA in ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout and prawns, or if you’re not keen on seafood, a fish oil supplement.