Americans spend billions of dollars a year and uncounted hours on dieting aids and nutrition efforts to get our bodies in peak health and condition. If only we spent a fraction of that considering our mental health, which is also strongly affected by the foods that we choose put into our body.
Make sure your brain is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs by checking out these 5 foods that promote mental health.
Blood sugar spikes and troughs have long been shown to exacerbate a number of mental health issues, worsening the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and ADHD, among others. Unsteady blood sugar can also affect focus, concentration, and memory in everyday life.
A diet low in simple sugars and higher in complex carbohydrates helps mitigate the blood-sugar rollercoaster effect. Whole grains like oats, beans, whole wheat, wild rice, and soy are an integral part of such a diet. They provide carbohydrates that require more work for your digestive system to break down. Glucose is thus released slowly, helping you feel full longer while providing a steadier stream of fuel.
A human brain consists of about 60% fat, which may be why it craves healthy fats and oils. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the biosynthesis of some neurotransmitters, notably serotonin and dopamine, which are key molecules responsible for mood. Since our cells cannot make these essential nutrients on their own, we depend on our diet to supply them.
Salmon, which is high in omega-3, has long been considered a brain food, but other fish such as mackerel, anchovies, and sardines also provide brain-boosting fatty acids. To a lesser extent, omega-3 can be found in walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds. If none of these appeal, do what your grandparents did and take a spoonful of cod liver oil every day.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Spinach, dark green lettuce, kale, and turnip greens provide lots of folic acid, one of the B vitamins. Broccoli provides an essential trace mineral, selenium, necessary for proper thyroid function. Deficiencies in B vitamins and selenium have been shown to exacerbate depression and sleep disorders.
Your mother was right: Eat your greens.
Foods Fortified With Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, produced naturally in your body in reaction to UV rays. About 75% of American teens and adults don’t get the vitamin D they need, and the deficiency is over 90% for African-Americans. Vitamin D levels have been shown to have an effect in those suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) as well as depression.
Vitamin D is an oil-soluble vitamin, so it’s more common in fatty foods like fish, liver, cheese, and the yolks of eggs. It can also be found in fortified cereals and juices.
A scientific study in Australia showed a striking correlation between the amount of red meat eaten and mental health. With all other factors taken into consideration, the women who ate less red meat were almost twice as likely to have a depressive or anxiety order.
Beef rules when it comes to providing essential minerals such as iron and zinc. These nutrients are found in higher levels in the brain than in any other part of the human body. Zinc deficiency has been linked to depression symptoms and ADHD, and iron deficiency has been linked to irritability, mood swings, and depressive symptoms.
Improving your diet is one vital aspect of mental health care. If you’re sure you’re getting the nutrients you need but are still experiencing difficulties, never hesitate to contact a trusted mental health professional.