A lot of focus is being put on mental health these days, and rightly so. From mass shootings to the reality that roughly 20% of individuals in the United States suffer from some sort of mental illness, it’s understandable why we are hearing more about mental illness these days.
The surge in awareness and prevalence of mental illnesses is why therapy visits and new counseling options like online therapy are on the rise. Frankly, it’s a discussion we should be having; stigmas be damned!
I won’t get into the psychology behind mental illness and everything that plays a role in it (it’s a very complex issue), but rather I will focus on another factor that plays a sizable role in mental illness: your diet and nutrition.
Ever heard of the saying: you are what you eat?
Well, it turns out this statement is true on many levels. If you put junk into your system, your body and mind will likely turn to “junk.” More and more studies show that natural foods high in micronutrients impact our mental health for the better.
Processed foods (which make up a significant portion of what most people buy these days) are showing to have a negative impact on brain and overall body function.
Moreover, let’s take a look at one of the largest mental health issues in America: depression.
There are various levels on the depression spectrum, and not everyone who is depressed is experiencing severe depression. A large percentage of individuals are only moderately or mildly depressed. According to doctors, a simple dietary change can help you overcome this.
The same likely goes for anyone experiencing any mild form of mental illness.
What You Should Be Eating
Taking the right food and herbs will not only to improve your physical conditioning, but brain power and mental health as well.
Inexpensive changes in your regimen can uplift cognitive functions, and possibly lessen signs of stress, depression and other psychological maladies. Experts recommend the inclusion of certain foods and herbs for mental health in your everyday diet and routine.
Foods with Positive Effects on Your Mental Health
As noted above, natural foods have shown to be very good for our state of mental health. So, it’s no surprise to see fruits, vegetables, whole grains, Vitamin B, fish, and any lean meats or vegetarian protein on the list of what you should be eating.
Whole grains are particularly important because they contain fiber, and they happen to be the least processed grains.
Here are some of the best foods for mental health:
Lean protein is one of the richest substances for the human body next to carbohydrates. Protein’s building block is an amino acid known as Tryptophan that affects mood by generating Serotonin.
As a neurotransmitter (brain chemical), it transmits information all over the body and brain. Serotonin is said to help neutralize depression. Sources of lean protein are chicken, turkey, fish, beans, and eggs.
More Information: Hemp Protein Benefits
Fatty Fish is important because of Omega-3 Fatty acids that counter saturated fats unfavorable to the brain. Omega-3 acids (for example, fish oil supplements) can be derived from cold-water fish like mackerel, salmon and herring; seaweeds; and chicken fed with walnuts and flax seed.
Fatty acids were found to deal with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. It is also capable of reinforcing memory and the learning process.
Read More: Health Benefits of Eating Salmon
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy Green Vegetables have a lot of Folic Acid and Vitamin B. Folate deficiency can lead to tiredness, insomnia, and sadness. Recommended vegetables are broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, mustard, and turnips.
Broccoli also contains a trace mineral known as selenium that’s good for the immune system, hormone metabolism (thyroids), and reproduction.
Whole grains, wheat, barley, soy beans, and rice are sources of complex carbohydrates which produce glucose for the brain. This serves as stable source of wholesome food for the brain.
See Also: Benefits of Kale and Spinach
Herbs for Mental Wellness
There are countless healthy herbs for enhancement of mental health that you can buy over the counter. Some of the more popular ones are the following:
Gingko Biloba which is cited for benefits such as the capacity for improving blood movement to your eyes particularly for persons afflicted with macular degeneration. It is also helpful to the ears and prevents inner ear ailments as well as tinnitus.
Passion Flower is the traditional herbal tranquilizer that induces restful sleep and alleviates anxiety.
Saffron is not only coloring for food or flavor enhancer. It is well-known for contributing to balanced disposition, soothing and relief for stress.
What Foods to Avoid
The two largest food problems in America are fast food and snacks (A.K.A. processed food). It is highly advisable to stay away from these as much as possible.
Not only will you improve your mental health, but you will reduce your risk of developing other diseases, such as cancer. You should also look to avoid sugar (and artificial-sweeteners – yes, I’m looking at you coffee lovers).
If you are a coffee lover, consider switching to black coffee or Bulletproof Coffee instead of your artificially flavored morning “coffee drink.”
If you haven’t heard of Bulletproof Coffee before, check out my article to learn more about the benefits of Bulletproof Coffee!
Sugar affects cognitive function– think about how that is intertwined with your mental health.
Learn More: Sugar Alternatives for Coffee
Diet and Therapy
Nourishment is one of the factors that contribute to sound mental fitness. Yet, it is not the entire piece. Dietary adjustments alone should not take the place of other forms of therapies.
People who experience some form of mental issues must find time to see a doctor or therapist. Even then, we all need to be careful with what we eat every day.
Avoid processed and junk foods. Instead, consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat.
Drink a lot of water regularly.
Keep in mind that nutrition will not only affect your well-being but that of the kids and grandchildren as well.
See Also: LGBT Mental Health Issues
Go & Implement It!
It’s important to see that there is not such a long list of foods here.
You can, and should, still enjoy life when it comes to food. No one is advocating to “only eat X.” However, there are certain foods you should try and limit, such as sugar.
Your diet should be balanced, with more of a focus on natural foods. Remember, the good news is that this is in your hands. If you’re in a mild state of bad mental health, a small and simple dietary change can make all the difference!
See Also: Sewing Benefits for Mental Health