Everyone knows that foods we eat affect our physical health, but did you know they can also affect your mental health? 🤯
We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat.” This phrase, of course, is meant to be taken figuratively because of the connection between food and our bodies.
But food doesn’t just impact your whole body health, it can influence your mental health too! 🧠 Yup, it’s true! Diets high in processed foods and sugar have been linked to anxiety and depression, whereas diets high in whole foods - like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - are reported to lessen feelings of depression. 🥦🍓
Certain foods and nutrients have the potential to improve your mental health, and even serve as a compliment to therapy for depression and anxiety if those are conditions you experience!
Wondering where to start? We’ve got you. ❤️ Here are 6 foods that can boost your mental health:
1. Oily Fish 🐟 Think salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, tuna, and herring. All are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve memory and boost feelings of wellness. For optimal mental health, it’s good to eat a portion or two of fatty fish every week! Salmon, in particular, is easy to prepare.
➡️ BONUS! Seaweed or algae supplements are also excellent sources of omega-3 if you’re looking for vegetarian options!
2. Berries 🫐 Did you now that berries can also improve symptoms of anxiety and depression? Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are important sources of antioxidants, which repair the cells and combat inflammation caused by free radicals like pollutants and sun damage. Some berries also contain polyphenols, which are compounds that improve memory, concentration, attention span, and energy levels!
➡️ Add berries to your diet by snacking on them or preparing a delicious smoothie with fresh berries, yogurt, and a trusty blender. 💪
3. Whole grains 🌾 Whole grains are crucial sources of B vitamins, nutrients in charge of brain health. Vitamin B1 helps turn glucose into energy and vitamin B6 converts amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. Most importantly. Vitamin B12 plays a role in the production of “happy chemicals” like serotonin and dopamine. Altogether, the B vitamins in carbs help regulate moods, relax the brain, and make sure we get a good night’s sleep. 😴 There are so many delightful, healthy options for carbs: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, and quinoa!
➡️ Thanks to modern rice cookers, whole grains are easy to prepare - whether you’re looking to start your day with some oatmeal or pair your fatty fish with some brown rice, a handy dandy rice cooker can make it easier on you!
4. Beans and legumes 🌱 Beans and legumes are ingredients we often overlook in our recipes. However, chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans can help keep blood sugar stable - which is a critical factor in mental health. Introduce them into your diet gradually and with variety! 📈
➡️ You can put beans into your salad or add them into your stockpot to make a filling soup! Or, if you’re feeling really fancy, try this awesome black bean brownie recipe (we promise your family won’t be able to tell 😉)
5. Leafy greens 🥬 Daily serving of leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, and spinach are associated with a slower rate of cognitive declines, thanks to the high levels of folic acid they provide in the brain. 👏 Adequate folate levels can mitigate depression, stave off insomnia, and regulate mood neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine!
➡️ Leafy greens work well as an ingredient in soups, omelets, and pastas. We also love them in our daily smoothies. If you’re feeling more creative, you can even toss them into a wok for a delicious stir-fry!
6. Nuts, especially walnuts 🥜 Nuts are a great source of unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. Many contain phenylalanine which is known to help the brain produce dopamine, the neurotransmitter that boosts mood, learning, and memory! 🧠
➡️ Toss them into a salad, on top of a yogurt bowl, or take a handful of trail mix on-the-go.
Of course, our state of mood is complex and influenced by many things, so we can’t rely solely on the foods we eat. 😌 But improving your diet is one thing you do have control over that can help manage your emotions! Fueling your body with good-for-you foods helps your mental wellness and is an important step toward feeling your best. ❤️ Experiment with some of these mood-boosting foods today and take note of how you feel!