An age-old saying says that ‘you are what you eat.’ While we all know this is true for our physical self, we often forget the implications of our diet on our mental health.
Have you ever noticed how the food you consume has the power to affect your mood?
Try thinking of the last time you felt an intense surge of happiness after eating ice cream or when you felt sluggish and tired after eating junk food for the whole day. Do you see the relationship now? In short, food does not just fuel our bodies; it is also extremely important for our minds.
As we celebrate American National Nutrition month in March this year, bringing awareness to the link between food and mental health is important. National Nutrition month is the perfect opportunity to understand the connection between what you eat and feel. It helps us direct our focus on not just the nutritional but also the emotional and psychological impacts of food.
To celebrate National Nutrition month and to take a step toward better awareness, let us dive deeper into the relationship between food and mental health.
The Relationship Between Food And Mental Health
The relationship between food and mental health has been a matter of immense research in the field of psychology. It has even paved the way for a new field in the subject altogether, termed nutritional psychiatry. Over the years, different pieces of research have identified how food affects mental health.
When you have a healthy diet, your gut health stays good. This, in turn, stimulates the gut bacteria to release neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which affect our emotions and mood. As per a study by Darío Moreno-Agostino, people who eat foods that are dense in nutrients report lower levels of depression and higher happiness quotient.
In short, food is not just essential for our physical health; it also plays a substantial role in our mental health. In fact, certain specific foods can significantly improve our moods and reduce chances of stress, anxiety, and even depression.
To help your diet plan right, we have compiled a list of the five foods good for mental health.
Read more: Is The Saying “Good Food, Good Mood” Scientifically Correct?
5 Foods Good For Mental Health
1. Dark Leafy Greens
If you asked us about the healthiest food for mental health, it would be, without any contest, dark and leafy greens (think of spinach, kale, and Swiss chard). Leafy greens protect the body against all kinds of inflammation. As per a study published in 2015, depressive disorders were closely associated with brain inflammation. Leafy greens are also vital because they are rich in essential nutrients like vitamins K, E, C, and A and minerals.
Apart from adding taste to your food, spices are also widely known for their antioxidant properties. They help the brain fight off oxidative stress, which can severely affect your tissues.
Turmeric has a standout reputation among foods good for mental health. As per a study by Qin Xiang Ng, it can change brain chemistry and help decrease stress and anxiety levels.
The World Journal of Psychiatry published a paper in 2018 ranking foods on the level of antidepressant ingredients present in them. Oysters were ranked at the top of the list. They are found to be rich in antidepressant ingredients like omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, and zinc.
Read more: 7 Anti-Anxiety Foods You Must Try
Bananas are another food that is super good for your mental health. Bananas contain plenty of tryptophan, an important amino acid that produces serotonin or the happiness hormone. It also aids in balancing your diet and helps regulate your sleep cycle.
5. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a good source of iron which helps develop and nurture the protective covering of neurons. It also aids the production of neurotransmitters. In a survey conducted in 2019, people eating dark chocolates regularly had a 70% reduced risk of depressive disorders.
The world we live in constantly feels overwhelming and stressful, and in the middle of all this, it is easy to forget about taking care of yourself. This is why National Nutrition month is a wonderful opportunity to prioritize and align our nutritional needs with our overall mental and physical well-being.
Now that you know about foods good for mental health, let us take you to the next step. Here are the absolute worst foods for your mental health that you need to avoid immediately. To continue learning about nutrition and mental health, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal – Your 24×7 Virtual Pal.