March is National Nutrition Month

It has been known for quite some time that there is a definite link between mental health and healthy nutrition. The following is some helpful information on the topic.

Research shows that the foods you put into your body can have an influence on your mental health. It is no surprise that what you eat can affect your anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

A healthy diet can support your mental health whereas a poor diet can negatively impact your mental well-being. Studies show that a poor diet can worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

A high intake of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, fish, lean red meats and low-fat dairy are rich in important nutrients such as folate, magnesium, vitamins and zinc, who all have an impact on body and brain functions including mood regulation.

When compared to the Mediterranean and some Asian diets, people following the Western diet consisting of high carbohydrates, saturated fats, red meat and refined sugars saw a 25% to 35% higher incidence of depression, thus worsening overall mental health symptoms.

Researchers have found that psychological stress such as depression or anxiety can cause inflammation in the brain. Eating a diet that decreases inflammation such as the Mediterranean diet can help reduce brain inflammation that may exacerbate mental health disorders.

Also, many people with mental health disorders have deficiencies in micronutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.

Evidence suggests that fish oil or omega-3 supplements may help stabilize mood over time in people with bipolar disorder or lessen depressive (but not manic) symptoms.

Foods high in omega-3’s include salmon, oysters, flack seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, omega-3 enriched eggs, hemp seeds, and spinach.

Eating more whole foods and reducing the intake of processed foods may improve mental health outcomes.

Since the brain and gut are connected, eating more gut-friendly foods also may make a difference in overall mental health.

Ten Foods That Boost Mental Health:

  1. Salmon – A fatty fish that contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
  2. Chicken – A lean protein containing the amino acid tryptophan that helps to produce serotonin, a vital receptor in managing mood, etc.
  3. Whole Grains – Complex carbohydrates lead to a more even and consistent source of energy with less blood sugar spikes.
  4. Avocados – Full of vitamin K and folate providing a boost to memory and concentration.
  5. Spinach – Provide solid amounts of folic acid which has been shown to be a great deterrent to depression. It also helps fight off insomnia.
  6. Yogurt – Contains active cultures and a great source of probiotics which have been shown to play a role in the reduction of stress and anxiety.
  7. Nuts – Also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, helping to fight depression. Almonds contain a compound called phenylalanine, which is shown to help the brain produce dopamine and other neurotransmitters that boost your mood.
  8. Olive Oil – Pure, extra virgin contains polyphenols which help to improve learning and memory.
  9. Tomatoes – Contains lycopene shown to fight against brain disease and cell damage.
  10. Dark Chocolate – Contains high levels of flavonoids, an antioxidant shown to boost attention and memory, enhance mood and help fight cognitive decline.