Foods for better mental health
Mental Health is a form of well-being in which every individual discovers their potential, can cope with the regular stresses of life, function productively and fruitfully, and contribute to their community. Mental health encompasses a range of emotions, at one end it may be expressed by feeling good and functioning well, while mental health conditions (or mental illness) at the other are characterized by symptoms that affect people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviour.
It is crucial to remember that mental health is complex. The fact that someone is not suffering from a mental health condition doesn’t necessarily mean their mental health is thriving.
Your brain and nervous system rely on nutrition to produce new proteins, cells, and tissues. So, to function effectively, your body requires a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals. To acquire all the nutrients that improve mental functioning, I advise eating meals and snacks containing various foods instead of eating the same meals each day. Sugar and processed foods can cause direct inflammation throughout the body and brain, contributing to mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. When we’re feeling stressed or depressed, we usually reach for processed foods in search of a quick fix-me-up, which further exaggerates the felling of sadness, etc.
Instead following are the top four food groups to integrate into a nutritional diet:
1. Carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables, brown rice, Quinoa, millet, beets, and sweet potatoes hold more nutritional value and will keep you sated longer than the simple carbohydrates in sugar and candy.
● Whole grains: Numerous kinds of food fall under this variety, like quinoa, oats, millets, etc. While your body and brain need carbohydrates for energy, we often consume simple carbs, which lead to blood sugar spikes. Foods categorized as whole grains comprise complex carbohydrates, which lead to glucose being constructed more slowly thereby giving an even and consistent energy supply. Furthermore, whole grains help the brain absorb tryptophan, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety while boosting brain function.
● Sweet Potatoes are widely popular because they are beta-carotene storehouses. They also help your eyes and immune system remain healthy.
● Eating bananas can help in sweetening your mood. This is because bananas contain tryptophan – an amino acid that helps produce serotonin. Tryptophan also helps in enhancing sleep. Potassium-rich bananas also possess a good amount of Vitamin B-6 (a very important vitamin for brain function) and fiber.
2. Lean proteins lend energy that lets your body think and respond quickly. Good protein sources comprise chicken, fish, eggs, soybeans, nuts, yoghurt, and seeds.
● Eggs are a powerhouse of protein as they are rich in all nine essential amino acids- the component of protein that the body can’t make by itself.
● Yoghurt : Yoghurt is an incredible source of probiotics. Constantly associated with digestive health, reducing stress and anxiety. Yoghurt can even provide you with potassium and magnesium, which helps oxygen reach the brain, further improving its function.
● Nuts and seeds: They are not just good for heart health. They are great for brain health too. Omega 3 fats, Vitamin E, and other essential plant compounds in nuts and seeds like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, etc. are great for your mind.
● Walnuts look like a brain for a reason. They are powerhouses of antioxidants. Even more amazingly, these nuts can also lead to the growth of new neurons; this means walnuts can help us grow new brain cells, an essential aspect of supporting good mental health.
● Chia seeds are one of the most affluent origins of plant-based omega-3 fats for vegetarians. Chia is an ancient grain and was a prominent part of the Aztec culture. Chia seeds can deliver a daily dose of good healthy fat into our lives in just a teaspoon and assist overcome depression.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids have various benefits for your body and brain. You can get omega-3 fats from fatty fish, algae, and a few plant foods. Here’s a list of foods high in omega-3:
● Cod liver oil
4. Dark Chocolate — Dark chocolate is classified as 70% or above of cocoa content, which you won’t find in milk chocolate. And the darker, the better. 85% cocoa or more is the most advantageous. Dark chocolate includes high levels of flavonoids and a variety of antioxidants. It has been found to increase attention and memory, enhance mood and help fight the cognitive decline in elderly adults.
In conclusion, here are some takeaways and healthy food tips to follow for better mental health:
● Stay clear of processed snack foods, such as potato chips, which harm your concentration ability. Try to ignore sugar-filled snacks, such as candy/soft drinks, which direct to ups and downs in energy levels.
● Consume a bunch of healthy fats. This will sustain your brain function.
● Have a healthy snack such as hard-boiled eggs, nuts, fruit, baked sweet potatoes, or edamame when the craving strikes. This will give you more energy than processed products.
● Think about where and when you eat. Don’t eat in front of the television. It’s distracting and leads you to overeat. Instead, search for a place to sit, relax, and observe what you’re eating. Chew slowly. Savour the taste and texture.
● Consume at least 2 liters, i.e., 8 glasses of water a day, to prevent dehydration. Research shows that even mild dehydration can induce fatigue, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, headache, etc.
Kanupriya Khanna, a Senior Consultant Nutritionist & Dietitian with over 19 years of experience in nutrition, can deliver professional advice. Kanupriya Khanna is considered one of the finest dietitians in Delhi because of her determined allegiance to creating a difference in people’s lives by infusing healthy eating habits and lifestyles.