If you are expecting to read about comfort foods in this post, you will be sadly disappointed. I know a lot of us turn to these foods when we are sad or depressed, but while they may occupy you temporarily, I have never had them make me feel better in the long run. Comfort foods such as pizza, salty chips, and pastries can actually result in increased cravings, lethargy, and irritability. The truth is that our nutrition is just as important for our mental health as our physical health. Foods are honestly one of the safest and most powerful forms of medicine we can use! So this post is about the 5 of the best nutrients and/or foods to eat to boost your mental health and mood.
- FOODS RICH IN B VITAMINS: A link has been found between vitamin B deficiency and depression. B vitamins have been found to improve mood by improving the function of neurotransmitters (the signaling system of the brain). Foods that are rich in B vitamins include green, leafy vegetables, fish, poultry/meat, and eggs.
- MAGNESIUM RICH FOODS: Magnesium is a mineral that is related to the production of serotonin. Serotonin is the a brain chemical that allows us to feel positive and happy. Magnesium is also important for overall energy levels. Foods that are rich in magnesium include beans, broccoli, nuts, seeds, and spinach.
- FOODS RICH IN OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: Omega-3 fatty acids (especially one called DHA) are important for membrane function and nerve function in the brain. Studies have found that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids increases brain tissue (grey matter) in areas of the brain associated with mood (amygdala, hippocampus, cingulate). Depression is associated with a decrease in amount of brain tissue (grey matter) in these areas. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include grass-fed meats, fish, seafood, walnuts, winter squash, and flax.
- COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES: Complex carbohydrates do have nutritional value. I do not advocate the consumption of wheat because many have gluten intolerance but ancient grains and gluten-free oats are a great addition to a person’s diet. Ancient grains include quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, and spelt. These grains increase serotonin levels and stabilize blood sugar and mood. The result is better concentration, stable energy levels, stable moods, and reduced cravings. Personally, I most often use sweet potatoes or winter squash for my complex carbohydrates.
- L-THEANINE: L- theanine in an amino acid found in green tea. It is important because is improves focus and calms the body by stimulating alpha brain waves in the body.
With the above being said, you may be wondering about supplements. Personally and what I tell my clients is that we should be trying to get the majority of nutrients from quality, whole foods. We need to change our focus from only eating what tastes good to what tastes good and supports the health and wellness of our bodies. I also realize that life is busy and there are some that will never eat the fruits and vegetables that they should. Generally, I recommend that my clients take a quality multi-vitamin and fish oil. For my clients that do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, I often recommend a red and green powder to get those nutrients and for my clients that do not get enough fiber, I often recommend a fiber supplement. It is interesting to note that a lot of the foods that are listed above are listed in more than one category. So, even if you consume only a half of the foods recommended, you will be on your way to helping support your mental and physical health! Nutrition is something that we live with 24 hours a day. You cannot out train a poor diet!!! If you are anything like me, you will notice that many of the things that you could get away with eating at 20 you can no longer get away with as you approach 40!