Foods That Will Help Boost Your Mental Wellness
Knowing what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.
How Does Our Diet Impact Our Mental Health?
In recent years, evidence shows that food can contribute to the development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders. While we still have much to learn about the effects of dietary patterns on mental health issues, evidence suggests that eating a healthy diet can have a protective effect.
Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body that helps regulate your mood. You produce most of your serotonin in the gastrointestinal tract where you digest your food. How those neurotransmitters interact with your digestive system and your brain depends on what you eat, which can shape how you feel mentally.
For example, people who follow the Mediterranean diet or consume healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein have a 25% to 35% lower risk of depression than those who eat high levels of sugar and processed foods. Along with serotonin, another reason scientists believe food affects our mental health is because of how our bodies process good and bad gut bacteria and how that bacteria interact with the brain.
Foods that help to improve our mood work with the gut-brain connection. Our digestive system is where an estimated 90% of serotonin — the feel-good neurotransmitter — is made, making it vital to have a healthy gut.
Manage Your Mood with Food
Many believe that good nutrition is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. Here are some positive changes you can make to improve your eating to support your mental health.
Eating regularly: If your blood sugar drops you might feel tired, irritable, and depressed. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady. Slow-release energy foods include pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, and seeds.
Staying hydrated: If you don’t drink enough fluid, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel constipated (which puts no one in a good mood).
Getting 5 a day: Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins, and fiber we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients.
Looking after your gut: Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion, you need to have plenty of fiber, fluid, and exercise regularly. Healthy gut foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, beans, pulses, live yogurt, and other probiotics.
Getting enough protein: Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Managing caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it before bed), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly.
Eating the right fats: Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones. Healthy fats are found in oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs.
Best Foods to Eat to Promote Mental Wellness
The right diet can go a long way toward keeping your mind sharp. Certain foods are rich in vitamins and minerals, which have been shown to reduce stress, improve moods, increase oxygen flow to the brain, and boost cognitive thinking and reasoning abilities.
Dark, leafy greens: Foods like kale, spinach, and broccoli are a part of a healthy diet because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamin B-12. Consuming more of these foods can improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Additionally, these vegetables are also prebiotic foods that provide your body with good gut bacteria, which promotes positive mental health.
Healthy fats: Examples include oily fish, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil. Healthy fats like these have anti-inflammatory properties that could help prevent symptoms of depression and lift your mood.
Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all low in sugar and high in fiber and vitamin C. Vitamin C can help regulate cortisol levels, which is a key hormone released during stress that causes anxiety.
Nuts and legumes: Foods like walnuts, almonds, beans, and lentils are staples of healthy eating. They are loaded with healthy fats, protein, fiber, and magnesium linked to reducing anxiety and depression.
Fermented foods: Research indicates that you can improve your mood and mental health by adding foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and pickles to your diet to help encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
It can be difficult to start or even maintain a well-balanced diet. We encourage you to adjust your diet by thinking of ways you can moderate negative foods and increasing others that promote physical and mental well-being that fit your lifestyle.
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That’s it for now.