We’ve known for years that a good, balanced diet is important for overall health, but it’s only recently that scientists and nutritionists have realised the impact that a ‘good’ diet has on mental health. In fact, studies have shown that diets high in processed foods and refined sugars actually curb brain function and exacerbate depression. So which foods are the best for nourishing your body and mind and keeping the demons at bay?
Read on and find out…
Catch a Little Fishy…
O.K., you don’t have to catch it. Just a nice, fresh one from the supermarket will do. Wild-caught fish is best rather than farmed fish, as it shouldn’t have been exposed to as many chemicals. It should also have enjoyed a richer, natural diet, meaning that all those lovely, extra nutrients will be passed on to you (the fish that keeps on giving).
Choose a fish that’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, tuna (fresh, not tinned), trout and mackerel. This is because Omega-3 can lead to an increase of the production of serotonin in your brain, the ‘happy’ chemical that helps beat the blues.
The greener the better!
According to EU Stats, in 2014, fifty-five percent of people aged fifteen and over in Ireland ate at least one portion of vegetables a day. While we’re certainly not the worst, we’re definitely not the best!
Leafy greens are fantastic sources of nutrients; they’re high in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is one of the three types of Omega-3 fatty acids important for brain function and repair. Think spinach, kale, brussel sprouts and watercress.
Chickpeas, puy lentils, mung beans and more. These are not only a great source of fibre, which is really important for gut and bottom health, they’re also a healthy source of protein. Protein helps to keep your blood sugars level, which in turn keeps anxiety, depression and low mood at bay. Level blood sugar also keeps the pancreas healthy, which helps defend against the dreaded threat of diabetes. As if this wasn’t enough, the wondrous lentil is also a source of folate, which is a B vitamin. B vitamins help the cells in your body to detox and make new cells.
Studies have shown that two brazil nuts a day can help increase serotonin levels. This is thanks to the Omega-3 present in Brazils. Almonds and cashews are also fantastic contenders and like most nuts, are high in fibre and good for your skin.
The kind here, however, seems to be the walnut, which are excellent for promoting overall brain health. Keep an eye on how many nuts you eat, however, as even though they’re good for you, they’re also high in fat. A small handful a day along with a balanced diet should do.
Other Foods That Are Good For The Brain:
Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are really good sources of tryptophan. This is an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are good sources of Omega-3.
Turkey: Turkey is a lean protein that is also a good source of tryptophan. Just adding eighty-five grams of turkey breast to your daily diet can help keep depression at bay.
Probiotic food: The link between positive mental health and good gut bacteria is only just being realised. Up your probiotic intake with foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir and other natural probiotic drinks.
Vitamin b12 Complex: While it’s important to eat as naturally as possible, if you’re struggling with depression and/or anxiety and are struggling to get all the nutrients you need, a good vitamin b12 supplement is a great way to raise your energy levels and improve your mood.