Eating the right foods can have huge benefits. From looking and feeling good to improving heart health, reducing the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain cancers.
Believe it or not however, what you eat can also have an impact on your mind. There have been a number of foods which have been linked to a boost in cognitive function as well as the reduction of symptoms in depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.
Studies have shown that foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and chicken fed on flaxseed and walnuts can reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, depression and ADHD to name just a few. It’s thought that this is because of the effect omega-3s have on the production of the chemicals in our brain responsible for our moods. It can also boost learning and memory.
The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose which comes from carbohydrates - the food group that causes the biggest debate. Whilst some people won’t go near them, others assure that they make up a staple part of our diet.
The simple carbohydrates you find in pizza, donuts and other foods high in sugar will in fact exacerbate low moods because they create spikes in blood sugar levels. Believe it or not, the effects that simple carbohydrates have on the brain have been shown to be similar to those of drugs.
Not all carbohydrates are bad however. Complex carbs such as wholewheat products, bulgur, oats, barley, beans, soy and rice release glucose slowly which helps us feel fuller for longer and provide a steady source of fuel for the brain and body.
The amino acid, tryptophan, is a building block of protein and influences our mood by producing the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Sometimes referred to as nature’s Prozac, serotonin is often linked to reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety and has even been shown to improve overall cognitive functioning. Lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs and beans can all help to keep serotonin levels balanced.
Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine and broccoli are high in folic acid as are beets and lentils. A deficiency in folic acid has been linked to higher rates of depression, fatigue and insomnia so it’s well worth including these foods in your diet as much as you can.
Yoghurt with active cultures
Fermented foods such as yoghurt, tempeh and even certain pickled vegetables, contain probiotics which have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress hormones. In contrast, processed foods which have become part of our everyday lives have been proven to compromise the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
Do you know of any other foods that work wonders when it comes to mental health? Feel free to share them with us on our Facebook page.