From a young age, we are told that eating well helps us look good and feel our best physically. What is not often talked about is that good nutrition significantly affects our mental health as well. In fact, a healthy, well-balanced diet can help people think clearly and feel more alert throughout their day. A well-balanced diet can also improve concentration and lengthen your overall attention span.
In contrast, an inadequate diet can result in continuous fatigue, impaired decision-making, and can slow down your reaction time. In fact, a poor diet can actually aggravate, and may even lead to, stress and depression.
With this in mind, you might be wondering how you can cater your diet to benefit your mental health. These four foods are just the starting point to a healthier relationship between food and mental health.
The typical American diet is noticeably lacking in omega-3 fatty acids and very high in trans fats and saturated fats. Trans and saturated fats have been proven to negatively impact brain function. Since the brain is largely made up of fat and our bodies cannot manufacture essential fatty acids, it is necessary to include omega-3s in our regular diets.
Fish are a well-known source of omega-3 fatty acids. Interestingly enough, cold water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel have been shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other mental disorders. This is likely because of the effect omega-3s have on the production of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin.
Both of these neurotransmitters are responsible for our moods. In other words, foods like fish that are high in omega-3s can positively impact your brain function and improve your mood when you’re feeling down.
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi contain probiotics, which are essentially healthy forms of bacteria. Yogurt contains live cultures which have been shown in studies to reduce anxiety and stress hormones. In direct contrast, eating too many processed foods may compromise the delicate balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
In fact, a University of Virginia School of Medicine study found that live cultured yogurt reversed depressive-like behavior in mice by altering their gut microbiome.
The researchers believe yogurt likely has the same impact on people as well.
Additionally, yogurt can provide you with potassium and magnesium, which helps oxygen reach the brain, further improving its ability to function.
In the past several years, avocados have become an incredibly popular food. From smearing them on toast or whipping them into guacamole, avocados are as tasty as they are healthy. Fun fact, avocados are the only fruit that contain monounsaturated fatty acids. They also contain almost 20 different minerals and vitamins. Not to mention, avocados also include tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin. This can help promote a good mood and general well-being.
If you struggle with depression-like symptoms, avocados are a great food to start incorporating into your regular diet.
Dark chocolate can improve mental health? That could be the best news in the world! There are many reasons why dark chocolate can positively impact mental health. For one, dark chocolate contains high levels of flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant. Flavonoids have been shown to boost attention and memory, enhance mood, and help fight cognitive decline in older adults.
Additionally, dark chocolate contains some caffeine, which of course impacts energy and alertness. Keep in mind though, these positive results only apply to dark chocolate—not all types of chocolates. The darker the chocolate, the better. 85% cocoa or more is considered the most beneficial when trying to improve your mood.
Protect Your Long-Term Mental Health
The human body is an amazing thing. The foods you put in your body have a direct impact on your mood and overall mental health. This means daily choices are important.
If your mental wellbeing and general health are at the top of your priority list, you might have pressing questions about your health insurance.
If you are from the Kosciusko area and have questions about your health insurance options, set up a time to meet with insurance agent, Michael Suhany. With his years of experience, he can walk you through various insurance plans and find one that prioritizes your long-term mental health needs. Contact him today to set up an appointment.