Not long ago, the food was primarily considered a means to provide the body with energy, but now we also know that food offers a wide range of health benefits as well. Food is also being recognized as playing a huge role in mood and cognition. Our brain consumes a large amount of energy compared to other organs in the human body. No wonder dietary choices have a great impact on our mental health. Psychiatry is making a significant change in the way we treat mental illness. Nutritional deficiency is slowly being recognized as one of the culprits of mental disorders like anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia. Changing your dietary habits might be a good starting point to improve your mental health. Wonder what foods are good for your brain?
Well, we’ve compiled a list of 8 foods that can improve your mental health when taken regularly.
1. Flaxseed, Salmon, and chia seeds
What all these three foods have in common is their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health and development. Our body can’t make Omega-3s, which is why we need to obtain these essential fatty acids from food. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation and the risks of developing heart disease. Besides this, omega-3 fatty acids were also found in several studies to offer benefits in bipolar disorder and depression. Eating fatty fish like salmon and mackerel two times a week will provide you with enough omega-3s. You can also get the essential fatty acids in supplement form.
Beans are rich in folate which is also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid. Folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders and depression. A study with 800 participants in the Netherlands found that the subjects had better memory and general cognitive functioning after taking folate supplements for three consecutive years. Other than folate, you’ll also get other brain-boosting micronutrients from beans. Beans are a rich source of omega-3, magnesium, and protein, all important nutrients for the brain.
Shellfish is a rich source of vitamin B12 or cobalamin which is an important vitamin for normal brain development during infancy. Vitamin B12 deficiency in adulthood is linked to depression. Experts suggest vitamin B12 in conjunction with folate as the two depend on each other in the metabolism. Besides B12, shellfish are also rich in iron which is important for normal central nervous system functioning. Many brain enhancement supplements contain iron and the B vitamin groups for this reason.
4. Cocoa-rich chocolate
The cocoa in chocolate is full of polyphenols which are known for their antioxidant properties in human health. The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage which increases with age. Besides this, the flavonols in cocoa may improve brain flow to the brain which can also increase cognitive functioning.
5. Acidophilus yogurt
Fermented food is rich in anti-oxidant components not otherwise found in the same concentration in non-fermented food. Besides aiding in digestion, the lactobacillus acidophilus strand o bacteria may also improve mood according to some studies.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant. Oxidative stress is associated with age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. A study of 4809 elderly people who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that low serum levels of vitamin E were associated with poor memory. Another study found that almonds improved memory by increasing brain acetylcholine levels. Another way to protect acetylcholine levels is also with Huperzine A, a brain enhancing ingredient you can find in Cogniflex supplements.
7. Whole grains
Scientists have found that diets low in carbohydrates might worsen depression because the levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin are triggered by carbohydrate-rich foods. But they also note that low glycemic index food like whole grain bread might provide moderate but long-lasting improvements in the mood while high glycemic index food can give you immediate but short-lasting mood-boosting effects.
Sushi is usually made with dried seaweed, and dried seaweed is a rich source of iodine. Iodine deficiency is not only linked to hypothyroidism that can cause depression but to mental decline and poor brain development. Iodine deficiency in the womb may lead to mental delay later in life.
Eating a nutritiously rich diet will probably give you enough nutrients for proper brain functioning. Our brain is a powerful organ that requires a lot of energy and nutrients to function properly. Scientists now know that mental health problems are linked to nutritional deficiencies which are why nutritional supplements are becoming the new way to treat mental illness alongside conventional treatments. Including these 8 foods into your regular diet plan might help you improve your memory, mood and general mental health.