We all know about eating well to improve our general health, and even to address specific issues like heart disease or diabetes. But did you know that tailoring your diet can also support your mental health as well? Making some easy changes to your daily menu can actually have a hugely beneficial impact to areas such as depression, anxiety, memory loss and a host of other mental functions too. This is due to the role our gut health plays in affecting our mental state. Just like the brain, your gut has its own nervous system, and this communicates with your grey matter via the vagus nerve. If you’ve ever experienced feeling queasy with nerves, that is the link in action. It means that what we eat can really have an effect on your mood and mental state. Keeping to a diet rich in the following foods can therefore be an extremely effective part of the management of conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety and keep your mind working at it’s best:
Maintain your microbes for a mood boost. Image licenced under Creative Commons.
Most people have diets severely lacking in omega-3 fatty acids. This is a problem because our brains are largely made up of fat and these essential fatty acids are not made naturally in the body, we need to take them into our bodies through what we eat. Studies have shown that a diet rich in omega-3, containing food such as oily fish like salmon, sardines and herring, flaxseed and walnuts can ease symptoms of schizophrenia, depression and ADHD. This is because they support the production of neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. These brain chemicals regulate mood and low levels of them have also been linked to a propensity for addiction. Omega-3 can also boost learning and memory skills, so double up by altering your diet and adding in an Omega-3 supplement.
Our brain energy is powered by glucose, which our bodies derive from carbohydrates. Yet many of us eat too many simple carbs like white bread and pasta. These create dramatic spikes in blood sugar levels and this exacerbates low moods and had been shown to have a similar effect on the brain to some drugs. At the other end of the scale, complex carbohydrates found in whole grains release glucose at a much slower rate, providing steady fuel for the brain a and body. A diet rich in oats, bulgar wheat, wild rice, beans and soy can help to support this beneficial effect.
Leafy Green Vegetables
While spinach might not make you super muscly in a flash like Popeye, it and other dark leafy greens have a hugely positive mental effect to offer. Romaine, collard greens, bok choi, kale and broccoli all offer essential folic acid to your body. Low levels of folate and other B vitamins have been linked with conditions such as insomnia, depression and chronic fatigue. Boost your levels with a daily green smoothie with the best green superfood powder, and pack your diet with stir fries and dishes featuring these amazing greens.