Written By: Shannon Sweeney
We really only think of food and how it affects our physical health — what will help me lose weight? What does it really take to have a healthy and balanced diet?
One thing we don’t consider in this balanced diet is our mental health. Food has a major effect on how we feel mentally, down to the chemical level.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your mental health, here are 10 foods I recommend. Also, cut out the sugar! People prone to anxiety and depression experience highs and lows because of sugar, as it can be a trigger food. Sugar rushes make our bodies work hard to get back to normal levels, and that can already be hard if you’re anxious or depressed.
Instead, try some of these foods:
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants help us repair cells, as well as combat inflammation. By helping us repair cells and other things, these antioxidants have also been found to help improve symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Blueberries and strawberries also contain a compound called polyphenols, which help improve memory, concentration, and attention span.
Fish like salmon, trout, and prawns are filled with DHA — an Omega-3 fatty acid that helps us improve short and long-term memory and contributes to overall brain health. In some studies, foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids have been sown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, and other mental health disorders.
Yogurt that contains active cultures help our digestive systems greatly, and they also can help with mental health. Thanks to current research that connects our brain health to our gut health, yogurt can help lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Broccoli is high in folic acid and selenium, a trace mineral that plays an important role in our immune system functioning, reproduction, and thyroid hormone metabolism. Some studies suggest that low levels of selenium can contribute to anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and eating broccoli will keep your selenium levels where they need to be.
According to studies, whole grains are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin — what’s known as the ‘feel good hormone.’ Serotonin also helps calm your mind, improve your mood, and maintain a steady sleep cycle. Foods with whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat based bread, pasta, or crackers, and barley.
Walnuts help improve long-term brain health because they are full of antioxidants and help inhibit oxidation in the brain and body. Walnuts also lead to the growth of neurons, which means they can help us grow new brain cells. This is essential in maintaining good mental health.
Leafy greens aren’t just good for physical health and for those looking to shed a few pounds. According to a study published in Neurology, people who consume daily servings of spinach, kale, and collard greens have a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who don’t eat leafy greens.
Beans are full of fiber and antioxidants, which keep us fuller for longer and keeps our blood sugar stable. This enables us to burn more energy, which is great for mental health. Beans also contain thiamine, a vitamin essential for the production of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter necessary for memory. Add beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and more to your diet for huge benefits.
Similar to fatty fish like salmons, lean protein sources like turkey, chicken and eggs help keep serotonin levels balanced. Complex carbohydrates also facilitate the entry of tryptophan into our brains (like fatty fish), reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression and improving overall cognitive functioning.
Chia seeds are packed with antioxidants and Omega-3s, and they also contain calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This helps reduce inflammation, blood cholesterol, and triglycerides. It’s even been found that a teaspoon of chia seeds daily can help fight depression because of its high levels of Omega-3s.
By adding some of these superfoods to your diet, your mental and physical health will thank you greatly. These foods are delicious, and there are tons of ways to incorporate them into your daily meals — so get cookin’!