Most doctors and registered dietitians agree that your diet is a top contributor to your health. When your diet is consistently poor, your health will likely be the same. This includes your mental health as well. What you put inside your body has a big impact on both your physical and mental health. But, what foods should you eat to ensure you have the best mental health?
Foods to Eat to Benefit Your Mental Health
There are many foods that help regulate your hormones. When you incorporate more of these foods in your diet, your mental health may improve. Through many studies, mental health disorders, such as generalized anxiety and depression, can be less severe with a proper diet. If you are struggling with a mental health concern, incorporate some of the foods below in your diet.
Foods High in Omega-3s
According to Dr. Carolyn C. Ross in a Psychology Today article, omega-3 fatty acids can help improve the production of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. The foods with the highest amounts of omega-3s are salmon, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables. Most of these foods are very affordable and accessible. Also, you can take an omega-3 supplement if you aren’t a fan of these foods.
Lean Meat and Protein Sources
Foods that are lean and have a high level of protein can help stabilize your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that must be stable, or else a mood disorder will occur. Thankfully, the amino acid tryptophan, which is a building block of protein, helps produce more serotonin. So, eating foods that are high in protein can help aid in the production of serotonin.
Some foods that are high in serotonin are two percent milk, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, and oatmeal. If you can include more of these foods in your diet, you may feel less anxious or depressed.
According to a Psychology Today article by Traci Stein, consuming fermented foods that have a high content of probiotics can improve GABA receptor levels. GABA is a brain chemical that can calm overactive cells that cause mental health concerns. Also, probiotics can help with gut issues, which can cause anxiety and discomfort.
Some examples of fermented foods are kombucha, pickles, fermented cabbage, and kimchi. These foods may help you have less anxiety and depression. Also, if you would like to eat foods that produce GABA, choose spinach, broccoli, sprouted grains, brown rice, and tomatoes. To get the most GABA in your diet, you can make a meal made with several of these ingredients.
Many people try to avoid carbs because they believe all of them are bad. But, the truth is, some carbs can be great for your body when they aren’t heavily processed. Fruits and vegetables can be very high in carbohydrates, and they are great for your mental health. Carbohydrates release serotonin when you eat them, so it’s important to keep them in your diet.
Some great carbohydrates to keep in your diet are sweet potatoes, onions, squash, apples, dates, and mangos. Rather than eating processed carbs like white bread or pasta, turn to these healthy options that will benefit your mental and physical health.
The way to make the biggest impact on your mental health is to combine the foods above. This can take some creativity, but it’s definitely doable! Here are some recipes you can enjoy:
- Spaghetti squash with ground turkey
- Chicken with sauteed onions and broccoli
- Oatmeal with strawberries and blueberries
- Salmon with a 2% milk cream sauce with onions
- Apples with an almond or walnut butter
How to Manage Your Mental Health: Is Diet Everything?
The truth is your diet is not everything when it comes to mental health. While it can help manage on-going and regular symptoms, you likely will have some residual symptoms. So, it’s important to consider working with a therapist to talk through your feelings.
If eating a particular way causes you anxiety, you may want to consider taking an eating disorder test. Sometimes eating and avoiding certain foods can lead to disorderly eating habits. So, it’s important to make sure you find a good balance between cutting out foods that cause anxiety, without being too strict to where it gives you more anxiety.
Interested in eating more healthy for life?
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