What foods are the best for your mental health?
Salmon is an excellent source of protein, vitamin D and potassium. It’s also high in B vitamins, including B12. Salmon provides tryptophan, which converts to serotonin, an important mood regulator, in the brain.
Broccoli is high in potassium, folate, and vitamin C. It also has a lot of fibre which acts a prebiotic. Prebiotics create a friendly environment for probiotic bacteria to flourish in the gut.
This vegetable is a fabulous source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and folate. Other dark leafy greens like chard, kale are also excellent sources of these nutrients. Leafy greens are versatile and easy to incorporate in salads and smoothies. They can be sautéed, steamed and even added to soups and stews.
Besides fatty fish like salmon and some mushrooms, eggs are one of the few food sources of vitamin D. They’re high in protein and can also be a source of omega 3s if they come from organic fed chickens. Eggs are also a reliable source of vitamin B12.
Yogurt is a fermented food with billions of probiotic bacteria. Probiotics help in breaking down nutrients for better absorption. This not only improves digestion; it allows the body and brain to better use the nutrients we consume. Recent research suggests a link between good gut health and good mental health. Assorted brands of yogurt have different combinations of bacteria. Besides probiotics and protein, yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium, potassium and B vitamins, including B12.
Brazil nuts are often overlooked, but it is the King of Nuts when it comes to mental health nutrients. Like other nuts, the brazil nut is a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, and tryptophan. But the thing that distinguishes the brazil nut from all other nuts is the selenium content. Six brazil nuts have 537mcg of selenium compared to almonds’ 0.2 mcg and cashews’ 0.7. One brazil nut provides about 125% of the daily requirement of selenium. Selenium plays a key role in preventing or decreasing depression and anxiety. Subjects who consumed the highest amounts of selenium-rich foods had the highest elevation of mood and lower anxiety.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries as well as other berries are rich in vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants. They also have important fibre, potassium and digestive enzymes. Berries can be cooked or eaten raw, added to yogurt, cereal or smoothies.
A good place to start
There is a synergistic relationship between nutrients in food and mental health. Incorporating these foods into your diet will provide powerful nutrients, and because food is not just comprised of one or two nutrients, eating these foods will provide many other nutrients important to good mental health. The key to mental health nutrition is eating nutrient dense food as part of a wide variety of whole, real food. Avoiding or reducing foods that are highly processed with high sugar, fat or salt content is best practice. Artificially created, energy dense foods such as donuts, pizza, crisps, sausage rolls, cakes and biscuits are some of the culprits.
About Dr Bunmi Aboaba
A Recovery Coach specialising in Food Addiction helping clients to achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals. Dr Bunmi’s work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, addicted eating and other associated patterns. Dr Bunmi also supports nutritionists, personal trainers, dieticians and clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results.
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