What We Eat Can Have A Direct Impact on Our Mental Health
On world mental health day, a nutritionist brings us a list of foods that help boost our mental well-being.
Thankfully, research about the connection between mental health and nutrition has moved from the fringes to become mainstream now. It is clearly understood that our brain is the greediest organ in our body, and has specific dietary requirements that must be met. In fact our brains health literally depends on what we plate, and what we eat (and what we skip) can have a direct bearing on everything from our memory to intelligence. Similarly there are foods that can help keep anxiety, depression, mood swings, and insomnia at bay. To celebrate World Mental Health Day here’s a primer on foods that can help keep a lid on mental issues.
For Better Focus and Motivation: Eat Dopamine Boosting Foods
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate movement, attention, learning, and emotional responses.
Get it from: turmeric, theanine from green tea, lentils, fish, lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, nuts and seeds (pumpkin and sesame), high protein veggies (such as broccoli and spinach)
For Ironing out Memory Problems: Eat More Iron-Rich Foods
Iron helps carry oxygen to the tissues, including the brain so when iron levels drop, tissues are starved for oxygen, resulting in fatigue, and memory loss.
Get it from: extra-lean red meat, cooked dried beans and peas, dark green leafy vegetables and dried apricots)
For Staying Happy: Eat Serotonin Boosting Foods
Found mainly in the brain, serotonin is also called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness. In fact there are clear reports that an imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression.
Get it from:
- Combine tryptophan-containing foods, such as eggs, seafood, chickpeas, nuts and seeds (helps build serotonin), with healthy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa (helps drive tryptophan into the brain. Dark chocolate also increases serotonin.
- Eat omega 3 rich foods like fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds as it helps manage mood by boosting serotonin.
Score B vitamins (B6, B12, folate)
Get them from: leafy greens, cabbage, bell peppers, cauliflower, lentils, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, sardines, lamb, tuna, beef, and eggs.
Focus on probiotics and prebiotics
Get them from: for probiotics eat fermented foods like dhokla, appam, kimchi, kefir, miso soup, pickles, spirulina, kombucha tea. To score probiotics include asparagus, chia seeds, cabbage, psyllium, raw garlic, onions, leeks, root vegetables (sweet potatoes, yams, squash, beets, carrots, turnips) in your diet.
To Control Mood Swings: Eat Choline Rich Foods
While choline, an essential nutrient helps to reduce cholesterol, and protect the liver, it also regulates cognitive decline, and mood changes.
Get it from: shrimp, eggs, scallops, sardines, chicken, turkey, tuna, Brussels sprouts.
To Bust Anxiety: Eat GABA Boosting Foods
GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, meaning that it prevents our neurons from getting over-stimulated. Boosting GABA helps bust stress and anxiety, and promotes relaxation.
Get it from: You cannot get GABA naturally from foods. But a variety of foods contain substances such as flavonoids that influence how GABA works in the brain. broccoli, almonds, walnuts, lentils, bananas, beef liver, brown rice, halibut, gluten-free whole oats, oranges, rice bran, spinach
To Sleep Better: Score Enough Magnesium
When you are stressed, guess which mineral is depleted from the body first? You guessed it! Magnesium! You need magnesium to cope with stress, allowing you to relax, and also to be able to fall asleep naturally.
Get it from: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, beet greens, summer squash, quinoa, black beans, and cashews.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)
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