How to protect your mental health with your diet
An unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety
If you've been feeling blue lately, a part of the reason could be your diet.
Our brain is always working; handling our movement, breathing, thoughts, heartbeat and more, even when we're sleeping.
Much like a car, it constantly needs fuel, which comes from the food we eat.
What's in that fuel is crucial, as what we eat has a direct impact on how well our brain functions and, as a result, our mood.
Our brain performs best when it gets high-quality fuel - nutritious food filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants - that nourishes it and prevents oxidative stress, or cell damage caused when the body uses oxygen.
Ms Alessia Tan, a nutritionist and business mentor at USANA Health Sciences, said: "Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function, and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders such as depression.
"Therefore, a healthy diet protects our mental health, while an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety."
To mark World Mental Health Day, which was commemorated on Saturday, here are some foods to add to your diet to maintain mental wellness.
This is a well-known "brain food" because of the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, namely DHA, which helps to improve our memory and contributes to brain health. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids boosts our mood and raises our mental wellness by reducing anxiety levels. Get your DHA from salmon, trout, and fish oil supplements.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are a great snack rich in antioxidants, which help to repair cells and combat inflammation. By reducing the damage caused by free radicals (commonly found in pollutants and cigarette smoke), antioxidants thus alleviate the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.
If you're going to snack, then snack smart. Walnuts, being full of antioxidants, guard our brain health for the long run by reducing oxidative stress in our brain and body. Not only that, walnuts aid in the development of new neurons, which essentially means they maintain our mental health by helping us grow new brain cells.
Processed carbs may cause inflammation and weight gain, and lead to mood swings and sugar crashes. But wholegrains are a rich source of tryptophan, a type of amino acid that aids in the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which helps improve our mood, calm our mind, and maintain a regular sleep cycle.
Dark, leafy greens have a fantastic reputation - and little wonder. With all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they contain, vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli are nutritional powerhouses.
Studies have shown that people who consume daily servings of leafy greens experience a slower rate of cognitive decline compared with those who don't.
They also help to protect the brain by fending off dementia, thanks to iron, calcium, folate, and vitamins E and K.
Packed with probiotics, which are essential for maintaining gut microflora and ensuring a smooth digestive system, yogurt can positively impact our brain.
Studies on the brain-gut connection reveal that our gut has a direct impact on our brain, and vice versa.
The enteric nervous system comprises two layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining our gastrointestinal tract, so whatever goodness you bring to your gut through the food you eat - like miso soup, kefir, tempeh and kimchi - benefits the brain.
For a happy, healthy brain, include beans and legumes in your diet. Chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils are rich in antioxidants and fibre, which help to maintain a stable blood sugar and keep us full longer. Beans also contain an essential vitamin called thiamine, which the brain requires to produce acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that supports memory.
This article was first published in Her World Online (www.HerWorld.com)