Foods to Benefit Mental Health

Did you know that a good diet can promote positive mental health? It can even be used to supplement therapy from counselors at places like BetterHelp.  We have all heard about the great benefits that nutrition can have on our physical health like a reduction in cancer risk and heart disease. However, the effects that nutrition has on our mental health can be equally as beneficial.

Healthy eating can help our concentration, anxiety levels, and more while unhealthy eating can negatively impact our mood and thought process. But what foods should we focus on consuming?

Salmon

Salmon has loads on omega-3 fatty acids that can give a solid boost to our mental health and wellbeing. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a positive effect on mood disorders. In addition, omega-3s can improve our learning, memory, and even our concentration. Salmon also has a high amount of Vitamin D which may help to reduce depression.  Other fatty fish have the same positive effects.

Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, or kale can be great at protecting the brain. One study showed that dark leafy green consumption correlated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. They also contain high levels of magnesium which has been shown to improve mental health and reduce anxiety and depression. They also have folic acid in them. Research indicates that folic acid may help to reduce depression and anxiety.

Avocados

Avocados contain high amounts of tryptophan which is an essential amino acid and precursor to serotonin. Tryptophan may help reduce anxiety and depression and improve mental health and wellbeing. Avocados also contain lutein which may have a positive influence on brain function. They also contain folate which may improve mood and reduce depression. Lastly, they also have omega-3 fatty acids that can benefit your mood and wellbeing.

Yogurt

The active cultures in yogurt can help our digestive health. However, they are also good for our stress, anxiety, and depression. This is also the case with other foods that contain live active cultures like kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut.

Bananas

Bananas are also a great food for mood because they contain the amino acid tryptophan. Bananas also contain vitamin B6 which has an effect on mood and brain function.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other berries contain high levels of healthy antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to positively affect mood. Additionally, some studies show that these antioxidants can also help to reduce anxiety. Dark chocolate and green tea also have high levels of these beneficial antioxidants.

Walnuts

Like berries, walnuts contain high amounts of antioxidants. In addition, they also contain omega-3 fatty acids that can be beneficial for mental health. Plus, a handful of walnuts is an easy snack to have on the go or to incorporate into any diet.

Whole Grains

Most people do not consume enough whole grains, but they are great for mental health. In addition to tryptophan, they also contain melatonin which can help to promote healthy sleep patterns. 

Foods to Avoid

There are some foods that have a negative impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Sugar can increase anxiety and have a negative effect on our mood and focus. The same is true about refined carbohydrates such as white bread because they are converted into sugar. However, don’t switch to aspartame too quickly because it can also negatively impact our brain function.

Trans fats can have some negative effects on our cognitive function. This is especially true of trans fats that are industrially produced such as hydrogenated vegetable oil. High fat consumption can even increase the rate of cognitive decline.

Final Thoughts

Some simple changes in the way you eat can have a drastic effect on your overall mood and wellbeing. Eliminating or reducing sugars and refined grains while adding whole grains and other beneficial foods can help you reduce depression and anxiety. Some of the foods are extremely easy to add into any diet. Take some walnuts or berries with you to eat in between meals. It is also easy to add yogurt and dark leafy greens to your diet. Finally, try to eat fatty fish at least once a week to feel increased benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

Marie Miguel

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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