The brain is a complex mechanism, and we need to treat it accordingly. Most of us are unaware that the food we eat actually creates the new cells that are growing in our bodies, and that we can impact the health of our bodies this way. That doesn’t only count for our skin and bones, but also our brain!
So in this article I am sharing the foods to eat for mental health, and what you shouldn’t.
don’t forget to pin this post!
Why is diet so important?
A couple of years ago I watched this TEDtalk, in which a researcher shares how they have helped kids with severe ADHD, only by giving them more vitamins. Granted, they gave them really high doses of everything, but the results were there.
Over the years, there has been a lot of research on food, mental health and brain health, and the study of nutritional psychiatry started growing.
Researchers now believe that 90% of serotonin, the happy hormone, is actually created by the gut bacteria. This means that when your gut doesn’t have an environment in which these bacteria can thrive, serotonin production will be inhibited, and you’ll be less happy.
Of course there can be a genetic component to mental health problems, and I am not saying that if you eat this way you’ll never have any problems again. However, if you are struggling with mental health, these tips may help you feel better.
This overarching study has looked into 16 other studies, combining the outcomes of over 45,000 participants. They found that generally, changing the diet has been effective in improving mental health, especially depression. Interestingly, they saw better results in studies with females than studies with males.
1. Eat less sugar
As much as we all love sugar, it is probably the first thing not to eat for mental health. I am not talking about normal fruit sugar here (nothing wrong with that, as far as I am concerned) but I’m talking about all the processed and added sugars.
This study showed that men who ate the highest amounts of sugar (over 67 grams, or almost 2 cans of coke a day) were 23% more likely to develop depression or anxiety compared to those who ate less than 40 grams a day.
A different study found that adults following a low-sugar diet were less likely to develop depression than adults eating a standard western diet.
And if that isn’t enough, researchers have found that too much sugar decreases a protein in our brain that is linked to the development of anxiety and depression.
Sugar causes inflammation in our gut, which stops the gut microbiome from working properly.
Now I’d never tell you to stop eating sugar completely. But try reducing it! Be aware that the first day(s) of eating less sugar might cause a bit of a headache, but you’re likely to notice the results in a week to a month’s time!
2. Eat more good fats
Good fats and omegas are some of the best foods to eat for mental health, but also for general brain health!
This study found that anxiety among medicine students reduced up to 20% by adding more omega 3 into their diet. Omega 3 comes from healthy fats found in fish, nuts and good quality oil.
This spanish study even found that those following the mediterranean diet very closely were 50% less likely to develop depression.
3. Limit caffeine
As anyone with anxiety can tell you; coffee does not make it better. If you love the taste of coffee, try a caffeine free coffee, you probably won’t even taste the difference. If you really think you need caffeine, try a green or white tea. They are full of antioxidants to make your body happy, and have a higher caffeine (theine, if we’re being specific) content than black tea. Otherwise, try replacing your beverages with infused water. I am a big fan of mint + cucumber, but you can try any combination you like!
4. Up your folate
Folate, a naturally occurring form of B9, has been related to a lower risk of depression by this Finnish study. Folate is naturally found in many green veggies such as sprouts, broccoli, peas, leafy greens, lentils and chickpeas.
They also found that an unhealthy diet, defined as eating processed meat, manufactured meat, baked or processed potatoes, sugary snacks, desserts and drinks, was associated with increased depressive symptoms. Additionally, participants in a 3-year lifestyle study improved their depressive symptoms.
5. Lay off the alcohol
I don’t think this needs any explanation, right?
don’t forget to pin this post!
So those are the 5 tips I have on foods to eat for mental health! Like I said, none of these foods is a miracle worker, and if you’re really struggling with mental health, I encourage you to talk to someone about it.
Altogether, these foodsto eat for mental health can definitely help relieve your symptoms, especially for depression. Try them and see how it goes for you! Food reactions can be different for everyone, so give all of them a go.
I’m curious to hear if you have a specific food that impacts your mental health? For me, I notice that potatoes make me feel clingy and dependent!