Contributed by: Alex Moore
More and more people nowadays fall prey to mental illness. Some struggle with anxiety or depression, while others go through the trials and tribulations of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and others. And oddly enough, another tendency exhibited by many of our peers is a proclivity to engage in unhealthy dietary habits.
Mental Health Foods
The link between diet and mental health is becoming clearer and clearer with recent surveys and studies. Data presented by the Mental Health Foundation has shown that people who have a poor diet consisting of unhealthy foods such as junk food and sweets containing refined sugar are more prone to suffering from mental illness.
On the opposite pole, those who consume balanced meals of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and so on are far less likely to exhibit signs of depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and so on. In fact, nearly two-thirds of those who are reportedly better adjusted partake in healthy and organic eating habits.
Fortunately, going down the same path is rather easy to achieve at home. All you need to know is which foods to pick and you’ll be on your way to better moods and improved clarity of mind. Here are the three natural foods you should integrate into your diet right now if you want to improve your mental health.
1. Fatty Fish
According to Mental Health America, one of the essential nutrients that your brain needs to function properly and adjust is represented by omega-3 fatty acids. Although there are plenty of dietary sources of the stuff, such as nuts, avocado or olive oil, by far the most replenishing reserves can be found in fatty fish.
Thus, salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, and sardines are indispensable for a happy life. By integrating one or more of these into the diet, the effects of mental disorders are reduced through an increase in dopamine and serotonin levels. This is especially beneficial in the long run because it diminishes the negative effects such conditions have on a person’s life.
Fish meat makes for an excellent main dish. And when coupled with a bit of lemon juice and some savory sides such as steamed vegetables or grilled mushrooms, the results are bound to be tasty and impressive. Just remember to cook it in healthy ways such as baking or broiling to preserve its nutrients. This means that frying is completely excluded.
2. Lean Protein
It’s no secret that ingesting plenty of lean protein is indispensable when you want to lose weight. The nutrient keeps you feeling fuller for longer, which reduces appetite and curbs cravings. And fortunately enough, it does so without adding too much to the daily calorie count. For this reason, many people resort to lean meats to achieve their fitness goals.
Lean meats such as chicken and turkey, as well as eggs and beans, are a staple in any diet. But did you know that protein is also vital for good mental health? The amino acids contained by it do an amazing job of regulating your brain’s function and feelings. One of these essential aminos is tryptophan, which is notoriously in charge of producing serotonin.
A grilled chicken or turkey breast with light seasoning is the ideal centerfold of any meal. And you can use the leftovers later in sandwiches to take to work with you, which is an added benefit. Beans are a hearty side, and eggs are the quintessential breakfast food. Thus, you’ve got all your bases covered. All you need is a will to incorporate them into your dishes.
3. Leafy Greens
Another group of foods that improve mental health is that if leafy greens. Examples include spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens and broccoli, and what makes them so great for the brain is their high folic acid content. Just like other B-complex vitamins, folic acid is an essential nutrient to promote harmonious mental function.
In addition, broccoli is also an excellent source of selenium, which reduces the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue. And when you steam it and add just a pinch of salt it makes for the perfect side dish to complement just about any lean meat or fish main, which is great news if you’re looking to improve your mental health through your diet.
As for the other leafy greens on the list, you have a couple of options. You can either go the same route you would with broccoli and come up with a nourishing side for your meal, or you can throw them in a salad, add some cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and a dash of balsamic vinegar and call it a day.
It has become clearer than ever that diet and mental health are closely connected. Thus, if we want to keep our spirits up and our serotonin and dopamine levels high, it’s essential to consume organic meals that improve brain function. By introducing fatty fish, lean protein, and leafy greens into dishes, this becomes possible. All you need is the desire to do so.
Alex Moore is a psychology undergraduate and blogger who advocates for mental health awareness in general and a better understanding of schizophrenia in particular. You’ll typically find him contributing to Schiz Life. Alex is very active on Twitter @alex_moore01