This is a guest post. Please see author info at end of article.
Food hasn’t exactly gotten a very good reputation amongst sufferers of stress and anxiety.
In fact, some of us even associate stress with overeating. And we aren’t wrong—food can definitely be used as an escape from reality to very detrimental effect.
But food isn’t the enemy. In fact, many foods have been shown to be incredibly good for our mental health, to the point that excluding them from our diets for reasons other than allergies might be a huge mistake.
You stand to benefit by really taking charge of your diet and incorporating healthy foods that can influence the mind in a positive way. After you go through the list, we encourage you to do some of your own research on these foods. There are numerous apps and resources that can be a constant companion in your efforts.
Smartphone users may want to consider utilizing a virtual private network service if browsing on WiFi to keep health and personal information safe.
Now, if you aren’t already hungry, you will be!
Fish has long been considered a healthy choice for any good diet, but did you know it can also have some major mental health benefits? Salmon is really the king of healthy fish; it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve mood (along with fighting off depression and late-life mental decline).
Salmon is also high in several B vitamins, including 12, 6, and 3. B vitamins are crucial for nerve conduction (they help keep the fatty insulation around your nerves healthy). Poor nerve activity has been linked with a variety of diseases that can unbalance your mood, especially with chronic conditions such as MS.
Another great food for mental health is the humble avocado.
Despite the 20th century health craze over eating foods with low fat, newer research has pretty much done away with the superstition of linking fat consumption to heart disease. Far from it—eating healthy fats such as those in avocados can improve mood and actually reduce the risk of heart disease.
Avocados also contain quite a bit of fiber, which is crucial for maintaining a fluid digestive tract. That might not seem immediately important, but the truth is that some mental health problems can actually be linked with poor digestion. Foods that stay in the intestines too long can start to rot and may even release toxic chemicals (which ultimately enter the blood through absorption and have a poisoning effect on the rest of the body, brain included).
Yet the best part about avocados is their versatility in dishes. They work with both sweet and savory recipes, making an effective base for pudding or contributing to fresh dishes such as guacamole.
Like their fishy cousins, walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fats. But they also have their own benefits on mental health. Walnuts, like cherries, contain healthy amounts of melatonin, which has been linked to improved sleep quality. They are also rich in phytonutrients and tannins, both of which are still under investigation but appear to have multiple beneficial effects on the body.
Though sometimes a tad expensive, walnuts offer their benefits without requiring you to eat too many. They make an excellent snack, addition to salads or even as a bit of texture in baked goods. Their composition makes them a good choice for preventing non-insulin dependent diabetes, so that’s one less thing to be as concerned about.
One of my favorite things about foods that help our mental health is being able to talk about the wondrous glory of chocolate. As it turns out, real chocolate contains healthy ingredients that can improve your mood and your health. Chocolate has been shown to boost the production of endorphins (they make you happy) and to increase serotonin levels.
Low serotonin levels have been scientifically linked to depression; the big thing to note here is that actually getting serotonin to your brain with drugs isn’t easy and often doesn’t even produce the desired results. Dietary options are considerably safer.
But don’t run out and buy a ton of milk chocolate bars; chocolate needs to be dark for you to really see its benefits. Use of fats other than cocoa butter (which naturally comes from the cocoa bean) is also an indicator of low quality. In general, you only need a small amount of chocolate to get the benefits (just a few squares of a bar), whereas too much can actually have bad effects (some experience migraines from consuming too much chocolate).
Bones are loaded with minerals; in our bodies, they store phosphorus and calcium. The broth made from bones is especially nutritious, providing you with vital collagen to help with skin and joint health.
There’s also the crucial element, glycine. Glycine can help fight anxiety because it plays a role in improving gut health. It stimulates the acid production in your stomach, a necessary element in breaking down foods before they reach the intestines where vital nutrients are extracted.
Foods not properly melted down as a result of insufficient hydrochloric acid can become toxic to the body. As we noted above, anything that reaches the intestines will eventually hit the blood. Did you know your brain actually utilizes as much as 25 percent of your body’s blood? It’s one main reason gut health is so closely associated with mental health.
So what do you think?
Will you use food to help soothe and heal your mind? Let us know how you feel in the comments.
About the Author:
Caroline is a student of health and her blogging topics at ehealthinformer.com include a diverse range of health and wellness topics. She is a big advocate of eating well and the positive effects it can have on your overall well-being.