The food we eat each day has a powerful impact on our mental health. Therefore, a diet for mental health includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats. Furthermore, hundreds of studies have explored how food affects mental health. As a result, researchers have discovered that nutrition and mental health are closely linked. Moreover, they have zeroed in on specific foods that boost our mood. The nutrients in these foods help control the chemicals in our bodies that regulate our emotions. Here are the 10 foods to eat everyday to support mental health.
Top 10 Foods to Eat Everyday
Chia seeds have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients play a role in the functioning of serotonin and dopamine, both critical to mood and mental health. In fact, one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 1,769 milligrams of omega-3s.
Furthermore, chia seeds contain magnesium, which is sometimes referred to as the stress antidote. In fact, some doctors and scientists believe that depression rates are increasing because we no longer get enough magnesium in our diet.
Researchers Karen and George Eby have published multiple case studies in which magnesium treatment improved symptoms of depression in as few as seven days. Therefore, it is a quick and easy to incorporate chia seeds into your everyday diet.
Walnuts are another rich, plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to impacting hormones, omega-3s support overall brain health. Deficiency in DHA (the chief omega) is associated with mental health disorders, including depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Furthermore, numerous studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and reduce depression symptoms. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry looked at the relationship between mental health and fatty acids. The study authors noted that the Western diet no longer includes enough of these essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Therefore, the authors concluded, this change has contributed to the rise in mental illnesses over the last century.
Broccoli is high in folate, fiber, and vitamin C. Scientists have found that low folic acid is associated with depression. As a result, folate is an important food for mental health
Furthermore, fiber is what’s known as a “prebiotic.” Prebiotics create a friendly environment for probiotic bacteria to flourish in the gut. And gut health is important for mental health, because the gut helps control our production of serotonin.
Furthermore, a recent study suggests that broccoli sprouts are especially effective in creating a healthy environment for gut microbes. That’s because broccoli sprouts contain powerful antioxidants. Therefore, they help decrease inflammation in the gut. As a result, they alleviate symptoms of depression.
Moreover, broccoli contains selenium. Some studies suggest that low levels of selenium might contribute to depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Therefore, broccoli is one of the best foods to fight depression.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale, collard greens, and beet greens contain a wealth of nutrients, including
- Omega-3 fatty acids.
Folate, magnesium, and omega-3s all support mental health and brain health. Furthermore, studies show that deficiencies in folate may contribute to depression, fatigue and insomnia.
Yogurt is a cultured (fermented) food. Therefore, it contains billions of probiotic bacteria and is a good food for mental health. Probiotics help break down nutrients so the body can absorb them better. Consequently, we can digest our food better.
As a result, the body and brain are able to more easily access the nutrients in our food. And recent research shows that our emotional well-being might rely on information that travels from the gut to the brain.
Consequently, researchers have found that people with healthy and diverse gut microbes are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show that having a healthy gut can reduce social anxiety and lower our reactions to stress.
Nutritionists recommend switching between different brands of yogurt in order to get a variety of bacteria. It’s also important to eat yogurt that contains live cultures.
In addition, yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin D. Our levels of vitamin D affect our levels of serotonin, which in turn impact mood. Hence, increasing vitamin D intake has been shown to alleviate depression. In addition, vitamin D contains specific proteins that induce a sense of well-being and relaxation.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and other berries contain potent antioxidants. Therefore, they are particularly supportive for mental health.
In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients were treated for two years with antioxidants or placebos. After two years, those who were treated with antioxidants had a significantly lower depression score.
Another study showed that antioxidants improved mental health in just six weeks. A total of 80 people with stress-induced psychiatric disorders ate a diet high in antioxidants for six weeks. Subsequently, researchers found they had a clear increase in the level of antioxidants in their blood. And they also had a significant reduction in anxiety and depression.
Avocados are another source of healthy fats, which help the brain function well. As a matter of fact, three-fourths of the calories of an avocado come from fat. This is mostly “good” fat, or monounsaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid.
Moreover, avocados also contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that has a powerful impact on mood and mental health. It helps to balance hormones and aids in serotonin production. Consequently, eating foods containing tryptophan improves mood and overall mental stability.
In addition, avocados contain folate, as well as vitamin B6. This particular B vitamin supports tryptophan production. Therefore, avocados are an example of foods that boost your mood.
Tomatoes contain both folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid. Consequently, they help fight depression.
According to a review study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, research shows that patients with depression often have a folate deficiency. In most of the studies, about one-third of depression patients were deficient in folate. Therefore, researchers concluded that increasing folate levels helps reduce depression symptoms.
Moreover, folic acid helps prevent a buildup of homocysteine in the body. This chemical restricts important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. As a result, too much homocysteine can have a negative effect on mental health. Consequently, folic acid supports a healthy balance of neurotransmitters.
Furthermore, alpha-lipoic acid may support mental health as well. Because this acid helps the body convert glucose into energy, it therefore stabilizes mood.
Mushrooms also help to balance our blood sugar levels. As a result, they positively impact mood. When blood sugar is unbalanced, we experience a repeated series of highs and lows. Consequently, this creates unnecessary stress on the body and on our emotions.
In addition, mushrooms promote healthy gut bacteria. And about 95 percent of our serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, a healthy gut supports healthy production of the hormones that control mood.
Because they contain fiber, beans also help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Therefore, this positively impacts mood. Beans also contain tryptophan, which supports healthy serotonin production. As a result, it is a great food for mental health.
In conclusion, nutrition is a powerful part of maintaining mental health and these 10 foods to eat everyday can help us do that. As well as enjoying our meals, we can also use them as part of a strategy for staying happy and healthy in both body and mind.
Images courtesy of unsplash
J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 Mar; 32(2): 80–82.
Indian J Psychiatry. 2012 Jul-Sep; 54(3): 244–247.
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16 Suppl 1:391–7.
Med Hypotheses. 2006 Mar;67(2):362–70.
Br J Psychiatry. 2005 Apr;186:275–7.
Psychother Psychosom. 2003 Mar-Apr;72(2):80–7.
J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Jan;39:134–144.
Nutr J. 2004;3:8.
Journal Nutr & Env Med. 2009 July;8(4):321–328.