Food is fuel for us to function, and consuming different kinds of foods and drinks determines the nutrients we store in our body, hence the saying, you are what you eat.
Some people may wonder if what they eat affects their mental health. The answer is yes – the foods we eat can positively or negatively impact our mental health. It is easy to forget food can be eaten for enjoyment rather than just weight loss. We often forget to include food for mental health.
The Science behind Foods for Mental Health
Food has a profound effect on our cognitive function. Nourishing foods can help improve our mood, increase our energy and boost our productivity while fighting depression, anxiety and stress.
It is important to note that no one “magic” food can cure mental health problems. Instead, you need a healthy, balanced diet that includes various nutritious foods.
Many different foods can help improve cognitive function, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. These foods are packed with beneficial nutrients for our mental health. They can help improve mood, cognitive function and overall brain health.
Beneficial Foods and Nutrients for Mental Health
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Healthy fats and monounsaturated fats are important for overall health as they help protect the brain from damage and regulate hormones. They help improve mood, reduce anxiety and promote better sleep. Fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna and other cold-water fish.
Probiotics are helpful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods. They help support the gut-brain axis, vital for mental health. In addition, yogurts are high in potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that help oxygen reach the brain.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, are high in antioxidants and minerals like magnesium. They help improve mood, reduce stress and promote better mental clarity. Additionally, greens high in folic acid significantly reduce the chance of dementia.
Antioxidants help protect the brain from damage caused by stress and pollution. They can be found in fruits and vegetables like berries, sweet potatoes and bell peppers.
Dark chocolate helps fight the cognitive decline in adults, enhancing moods and boosting attention and memory.
Tips on Eating Healthy for Your Mental Health
- Eat various foods: If we only ate fries or steak or salads, we would not be getting the nutrients the body and the brain need.
- Do not eat in distracting areas: Find a relaxed place where you can properly sit and enjoy your food.
- Eat slowly and pace yourself: Eating slowly helps you thoroughly chew the food and makes it easier for the body to process food.
- Create a list of healthy foods for mental health that you can incorporate into your diet.
- Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach to avoid the impulse to buy imbalanced foods for your diet.
A Parting Reminder
We can help support our mental health and improve our overall well-being by eating healthy foods. But this is not enough as you still need to be physically active to stay healthy and avoid bad habits as much as possible.
Though it is important to consume healthy foods for mental health, you don’t need to rethink your diet right away, as enjoyment is a vital piece of your mental health. Instead, you can easily incorporate these foods and nutrients into your current diet to ease the process. Making healthy eating habits a priority is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.