How Diet Affects Mental Health
Studies have shown that our physical health has a huge effect on our mental health and our ability to handle daily challenges. You may have even noticed this about yourself. Exercise and nutrition contribute to our ability to get outside and spend time in nature. Higher energy levels allow us to feel more accomplished at the end of the day. Certain foods even directly affect the release of mood-enhancing chemicals in our brains.
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Omega-3 fatty acids help fight depression and mood swings, and chia seeds are a great source. I like to blend one teaspoonful of the seeds with smoothies or sprinkle them over salads or yogurt.
Berries contain antioxidants which protect your brain cells from free radicals. Some types actually contribute to better brain function as well. In addition to snacking on berries alone, you can add them to recipes. Check out this post to read about adding berries to infused water.
- Almonds contain tyrosine which contributes to the production of dopamine. (Dopamine helps you feel motivated.)
- Brazil nuts contain selenium. Selenium is believed to help with mood disorders such as anxiety.
Yogurt is a major source of probiotics which can help curb or even reverse some symptoms of depression. This article from U.S News can help you decide if you should be eating greek or regular yogurt depending on your nutritional needs.
- Albacore Tuna
Both salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other types of fish that are rich in omega-3 include mackerel, herring, and oysters. Tuna and salmon also contain Vitamin D which is important for your mood and critical thinking. If you aren’t a fan of fish or just don’t include enough in your diet, you can supplement with cod liver oil.
Broccoli has nutritional benefits which battle both anxiety and depression. The fiber feeds healthy gut bacteria which aids in the relief of anxiety symptoms. Broccoli also contains antioxidants which help alleviate some symptoms of depression. Spinach contains tryptophan and folate which both assist in the production of serotonin. (Serotonin helps regulate moods.)
Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine which increases dopamine levels. (Dopamine affects your mood, memory, and focus.) L-theanine also has anti-anxiety effects. Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee so there’s less chance that you’ll feel jittery. Whenever I’m feeling really distracted but have something I need to complete, a cup of green tea helps me focus on the task until it’s done.
When thinking of how to improve your mental health, do you consider the foods you eat? I’d love to make this a conversation in the comments below!