10 Foods To Eat To Support Mental Health
By Megan Roosevelt, RDN & Founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com
On October 10th, we observed World Mental Health Day. While mental health is important year-round, this day is dedicated to bringing awareness to the importance of mental health and supporting our mental well-being.
Many factors affect our mental health from nutrition, lifestyle, trauma, relationships, experiences, and beyond. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, today we’ll be focusing on one key aspect for supporting mental wellness, and that is nutrition.
Did you know that the foods you eat can positively or negatively affect our hormones, cognitive health, and mental health overall? For example, certain foods can support serotonin production, which is our “feel good” hormone. According to the American Psychological Association there is a correlation with poor gut health and a lack of bacterial diversity in the microbiome to greater risk of anxiety, OCD or depression.
10 Foods To Eat To Support Mental Health
According to an article in Nutrients (which is a peer-reviewed, open access journal of human nutrition) individuals who eat berries and a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables overall, are likely to have better mental health than those who do not. For example blueberries are rich in gut supporting fiber and an antioxidant flavonoid as anthocyanin. This antioxidant has been associated with reducing inflammation, helping to repair DNA, may help reduce oxidative stress which can help to slow the brain’s aging process and reduce the risk of depression.
Research supports that individuals who eat nuts, and in particular walnuts, are less likely to experience depression. Individuals who eat a diet rich in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fats are also less likely to also have anxiety.
For those who eat gluten-free, try certified gluten-free oats and quinoa! These naturally gluten-free whole grains are packed with nutrition and fiber.
4. Less Sugar Intake & A Better Sweetener!
This tip is one food to actually consume less of, and that is sugar. Too much sugar in the diet has now been found to decrease a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Low levels of BDNF are associated with the development of depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Healthy BDNF levels are also essential for learning and long-term memory.
One way to reduce your sugar intake while still enjoying foods with a sweet flavor is to try Purecane! Purecane found a revolutionary way to ferment sugarcane to make it into a zero-calorie and low glycemic sweetener. It contains no artificial chemicals or GMOs. Purecane has a Baking Sweetener that is perfect for cooking and baking. There are also Individual Packets or a Canister for adding a touch of sweetness to drinks. It tastes like sugar because it's made from sugar - without the traditional sugar spike!
5. Omega 3s
Speaking of BDNF, omega-3s such as those found in fatty fish can increase BDNF levels. Additional sources of Omega 3s include chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds. Two Omega 3s, in particular, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may benefit people with mood disorders the most, and they also have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Avocados are another source of Omega 3s and contain vitamin K and folate, supporting brain health and blood circulation. This creamy fruit also contains fiber! A diet rich in fiber is essential for supporting gut health and bacterial diversity in the microbiome.
7. Dark Chocolate
Yes! Enjoy some dark chocolate every day to enjoy a boost of flavonoids! This antioxidant has been shown to support blood circulation, boost attention and memory, and it just tastes great and is an enjoyable treat! Aim for dark chocolate that is low in sugar and is 70% or higher; the higher the percentage, the more cacao beans are retained, which is where the nutrients are.
8. Leafy Greens
Greens such as spinach, mustard greens, and broccoli all contain B vitamins along with folate. Individuals who are deficient in folate and B vitamins have been associated with a higher risk of depression, fatigue, and sleep struggles.
Tomatoes contain lycopene which has been shown to support memory, attention, and concentration. The nutrients found in tomatoes can also help fight off cell damage and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Legumes (beans) such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and garbanzo beans contain a trace element known as selenium. Selenium is an essential mineral for thyroid health as well as mood.
Aim to eat these foods every day (or as often as possible) to support your overall health and mental well-being!
Have a happy and healthy day!
You can stay connected with Megan Roosevelt, RDN on Instagram at @HealthyGroceryGirl, watch recipe videos at YouTube.com/HealthyGroceryGirl or visit her recipe and wellness blog at HealthyGroceryGirl.com