March 26, 2021 4 min read 0 Comments

They say we are what we eat...and science has proved it to be more than just a cliché.

We all know the benefits of fresh, healthy food on our bodies – but how about our minds?

Knowing what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes everyday. However, studies suggest that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.

Improving your diet may help to improve our mood, give us more energy and help us think more clearly.

Today we want to share with you 11 foods that will help you improve your mental health and overall wellness.

Oily fish

We’ve always heard that fish is good ‘brain food’ – but why? Let us introduce the wonders of the little fatty acid known as DHA.

DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid, which helps improve both short and long-term memory, contributing to optimal brain health. Additionally, a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids can also help to boost feelings of mental health and wellness and reduce levels of anxiety.

Find DHA in ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout and prawns, or if you’re not keen on seafood, a fish oil supplement.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries – if you’re looking for the perfect snack to get your antioxidant fix, this is it. Antioxidants assist in repairing cells, as well as assisting in combating inflammation caused by free radical damage. By reducing the damages caused by free radicals (found in pollutants, cigarette smoke and other nasties), these antioxidants have also been found to assist in improving symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.foods for mental health

As an added bonus, berries (blueberries and strawberries) also contain a compound called polyphenolics, which have been found to improve memory, concentration and attention span.

Yoghurt

If you’ve ever spruiked the benefits of yoghurt for an upset stomach, you may be doing yourself more of a favour than you think.

Many people enjoy yoghurt for the added benefit of probiotics (which help your digestive system to run smoothly), however recent research has stated that, thanks to the brain-gut connection, probiotics found in cultures such as yoghurt can also impact a person’s mental health, assisting in lowering levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

Whole Grains

There’s a reason carbs are so delightful – and they don’t have to take a back seat in your daily diet.

According to studies, wholegrains are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin (aka, the ‘feel good hormone’). Serotonin assists in calming the mind, improving your mood and maintaining a steady sleep cycle.

Walnuts

If you’re after a snack that happens to help your long-term brain health, make it a handful of walnuts. They look like a brain for a reason.

Walnuts are full of antioxidants, helping to inhibit oxidation in the brain and body. Even more amazingly, these nuts can also lead to the growth of new neurons – basically, this means walnuts can help us to grow new brain cells, an essential aspect of maintaining good mental health.

Leafy greens

We’ve all heard the loud praises leafy greens seem to get for everything – including mental health. If you can’t beat it, join it.foods for mental health

According to a study published in Neurology, people who regularly consumed daily servings of leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens have a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who avoided piling their plates with greens.

Beans

It’s the musical fruit – but did you know beans are also one of the top food choices for a happy, healthy brain?

Full of fibre and antioxidants, beans and legumes (chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans, for example) keep you fuller for longer, keeping your blood sugar stable and enabling you to burn more energy (which, as we know is essential for good mental health). Beans also contain thiamine, a vitamin needed for the production of acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter essential for memory).

Bananas

Although you won't feel an immediate change in your mood after enjoying a banana for breakfast or an afternoon snack, this "mood food" plays a role in "topping up" the amount of serotonin ("feel-good" chemicals) the brain produces. Don't let them go to waste, either. There are plenty of brilliant ways to use overripe bananas.

Green Tea

Such as it is in nature, the colour green purportedly has a calming effect on the human mind. Which makes green tea, with its high levels of L-theanine – a naturally-occurring amino acid found in tea leaves – all the more important to drink when you're feeling blue. This amino acid plays a significant mood-boosting role, specifically by increasing your brain's dopamine levels (which affects your emotional responses) – so you'd better start brewing!

Dark Chocolate

Those with a serious sweet tooth will rejoice at the news that indulging in dark chocolate is A-OK when it comes to boosting mental health and wellness. This treat makes the list due to its high cocoa content – something you won’t find in white or milk chocolate. Think really dark, too, with 85 per cent or higher being the most beneficial. Thanks to its high levels of the antioxidant flavanol, dark chocolate can enhance your mood and boost attention levels.

Sweet Potatoes

Perhaps one of the more lesser-known foods on the list, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that reduces brain cell damage – something that could have a direct effect on mental health and wellness. These mouth-watering sweet potato recipes might spark some inspiration and creativity in the kitchen the next time you're meal prepping.

 

Sources here, here and here.


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