Our mental health is impacted by just about everything we do. How we eat, drink, and love, how we handle stress, depression, sorrow and anxiety – all of these daily actions impact the state of our mental health. If these activities can impact our brains, then it stands to reason that what we eat can help (or hurt) our brains.
How Food Impacts Your Mental Health
Food plays a critical role in your emotional health. According to Harvard Health, serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that impacts sleep, moods, and pain is primarily produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Healthy bacteria in your gut promotes serotonin production.
Unfortunately, the standard American diet is laden with foods that destroy good bacteria including sugar and carbs. However, a diet rich in produce and fermented foods promotes good bacteria growth, positively impacting your serotonin levels. Food has even been used as a treatment for certain mental health issues, spawning the new field of nutritional psychiatry.
Foods That Boost Your Brain
In fact, research shows that many types of food can help improve your brain in specific ways. Here are a few:
- Fatty Fish
This kind of fish, such as salmon, provides us with the omega-3 fatty acids that our brains need as fuel. Research has linked omega-3 to reducing symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, and other disorders.
- Leafy Greens
They also report that leafy greens including spinach are high in folic acid. Deficiencies in this important chemical have been linked to depression, fatigue, and insomnia.
Studies have shown the beneficial effects of berries on better brain function, possibly reducing the inflammation and cell death that can lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Beets are rich in nitrates, which can increase blood flow to the brain, according to research.
Foods To Avoid
Conversely, eating the wrong foods can hurt you. Huffington Post reports on a study that found that too many saturated fats can damage your neurons. Here are more of the worst foods you can eat:
This food has no health benefits at all. However, it’s in most processed foods, including savory products.
Believe it or not, some studies reveal that wheat is linked to depression, anxiety, dementia, panic disorder, and more. Read this post from Optimally Living Dynamics to learn more.
- Vegetable Oil
Omega-6 can be a source of unwanted and harmful inflammation, and it is also in many food products like cooking oils and processed food. You may not even know you are eating more of it than you should.
How To Change Your Diet
Now that you know better, how can you change your diet? The trick is to choose whole and natural foods that are not processed. Try these tips:
- Limit sugar in your diet. Juice, soda, and junk food is likely the biggest source of this problem, so you might want to consider knocking it out of your cabinet.
- Cook more fresh meals. Start your own garden, peruse the produce aisle at the grocery store, or visit the local farmer’s market to stock up on fresh produce to incorporate in meals and snacks.
- Buy what you like. Carrots, fruits, hummus, grass-fed cheese? These are healthy staples in your diet and they can replace cookies and ice cream. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new either.
Eating right is not just a great way to stay fit. It’s also important for healthy brain function and good mental health. Make gradual changes to your eating habits to keep your brain in shape.
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