As we become more aware of the food we eat and the lifestyle that we live, the connection between that and the quality of our mental health is getting more attention.
In a world of chaos and many unhealthy choices, it may feel like we don’t have a lot of control and mental health imbalances can run wild. And they have been!
The rise of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, has been noted among much research. There are many factors that contribute to your mental health — it can become complex — but one factor that is getting more and more attention is your nutrition.
Ironically, it is also the one factor that so many of us do not pay close attention to.
There are foods that will support your mental health and others that will deplete it. But, why do certain foods act the way they do? It really comes down to key nutrients that you’re getting from those foods.
And as research on this subject becomes more explored, we are seeing a higher connection between specific nutrients that support emotional health and create stability in our moods. What are some of those nutrients?
Here are three main nutrients that will help to support brain and mental health (and the overall quality of your body’s health):
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Not only are they heart healthy, but they are brain healthy too. Omega-3s may be helpful in the treatment of depression and seem to have a mood-stabilizing effect. They have been connected to reducing inflammation and are vital for normal brain function and development. Low levels of omega-3s have been connected to accelerating brain aging and contribute to deficits in brain function.
Fish oil supplements are one of the most common ways to get more Omega-3s into your daily diet — those that contain higher amounts of EPA may improve depressive symptoms in people with depression. They appear to have the greatest effects in those who are already taking antidepressant medications. If you plan to get your omega-3s from fish sources, then oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines) are the most highly recommended sources and should be eaten at least twice a week.
What if you are vegetarian or vegan? Higher levels of omega-3s can also be found in walnuts, flax (or flaxseed oil), olive oil, avocados, fresh basil and dark green leafy vegetables.
2. Vitamin D. Higher rates of depression have been associated with lower levels of Vitamin D. Lack of Vitamin D is thought to play a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is depression that commonly starts in the fall, lasts through winter and decreases when the sun is more abundant.
Why is Vitamin D so important? It is needed to help the body absorb calcium for strong teeth and bones and increases the health of muscles and the immune system. It has also been associated with heart disease and increased risk of heart attacks.
Our bodies do produce Vitamin D as a result of being in the sun — 5-30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week is typically a good amount to produce adequate levels of Vitamin D. But, not for everyone — skin color and where on your body you get your sun exposure matters!
Most foods do not naturally have Vitamin D, but many are “Vitamin D fortified.” Fatty fish like salmon and tuna have the most naturally occurring Vitamin D. Other foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals have Vitamin D added.
3. B Vitamins and Folate. B Vitamins are fantastic in improving overall mental health, especially depression. In particular, increased intake of B 12 and folate is associated with decreasing depression.
Folic acid is essential for production of cells and especially important for healthy hair, skin, nails, eyes, liver and red blood cell production.
Where can you get it? Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains have high amounts of folate, or folic acid. If you are looking to up your overall level of B vitamins and also want to know if you might have a deficiency, this article is helpful.
Managing your mental and emotional health can seem daunting when you are feeling the weight of it all and when you are feeling out of control. The good news is that you do have control! It may even be sitting right in your cabinets already.
Did you know that stress ages you? Here is my morning routine to slow the aging process (and make you happier and more energetic!). Click the link below!
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