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The topic of mental health has become increasingly popular in the last few years. As we continue to live in this pandemic era it makes sense the discussion surrounding our mental wellbeing is being emphasized. Similar to physical health, mental health can be impacted by what we eat. No, there is not a diet or a food you can eat that will cure mental health-related conditions; but, we know that certain lifestyles and what we eat can improve our moods and general sense of well-being. Today we will uncover foods that may improve overall mental well-being.
Vitamins and Minerals
Most vitamins and minerals (aka micronutrients) are considered essential nutrients. Essential means that the body cannot make them. This means we need to consume micronutrient-rich food sources in order to obtain them. These essential nutrients help our bodies and mind function properly and stay healthy. It’s pretty well known that fruits and vegetables are vitamin and mineral rich. However, it’s not so known that fruits and vegetable intake is associated with lower odds of depression and anxiety (1). Consider adding various fruits or vegetables to your meals or snacks. Not only will they add variety in micronutrients, but could possibly enhance your mood!
Our brain is 60% fat (2). So it makes sense that the types of fats we consume can have an impact on our brain. Certain types of fats are considered essential. This term again, means we cannot make it ourselves. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both considered essential. Deficiencies in these two fats have been linked to an increased risk of developing various psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, ADHD, and autism (3, 4). Omega-3 and omega-6 can be found in various fat rich foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados and certain oils. Fatty fish such as salmon is often emphasized since it contains a large quantity of DHA-rich omega-3’s. DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a type of omega-3. Research shows lower levels of DHA in the brain being associated with Alzheimer’s disease (5). Aim to consume a serving of fatty fish 2-3 times a week. This will up your omega-3 and DHA intake thus helping support your brain’s health.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Although not all amino acids are considered essential, 8 specifically are (6). Theses 8 need to be supplied through the diet. Consuming a diet rich in various proteins can ensure you are consuming all 8 essential amino acids. Foods that contain all 8 amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. Some complete proteins include meat, diary products, eggs, tofu, edamame, lentils, and quinoa to name a few. Regardless if you eat complete proteins or not, consuming enough and various sources of proteins is extremely important. Many of the neurotransmitters in the brain are made from amino acids. If a diet is lacking in protein or various amino acids, our brain function and mental health can be affected. A deficiency can result in a low mood and aggression (6). Aim to have a protein rich food at each meal and snack to ensure you are hitting your protein goals.
The Mediterranean Diet
All in all, the diet definitely has an impact on overall health, especially mental health. The best way to get all your essential nutrients is to eat a broad diet. The Mediterranean Diet is a great example of a nutrient-rich eating style. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, omega-3s, and various proteins with a big plant-forward push. Including components of this eating style into your routine may prove to be beneficial in the long run. Consider styling your meals after the Mediterranean diet to get the power of this plant-forward diet.
By: Emily Rykaczewski, MS, RDN, LDN
For more tips and tricks, schedule a meeting with a Charge Registered Dietitian today to create a personalized plan that works for you.
1.Sadeghi O, Keshteli AH, Afshar H, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. Adherence to Mediterranean dietary pattern is inversely associated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress. Nutr Neurosci. 2021 Apr;24(4):248-259. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1620425. Epub 2019 Jun 11. PMID: 31185883.
2. Chang CY, Ke DS, Chen JY. Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan. 2009 Dec;18(4):231-41. PMID: 20329590.
3. Lange, Klaus. Omega-3 fatty acids and mental health. Global Helath Journal. 2020 Mar;24 doi: 110.1016/j.glohj.2020.01.004.
4. Key Nutrients that Support Mental Health: Klarity Clinic: Ketamine Infusion Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://www.klarityclinic.com/blog/key-nutrients-that-support-mental-health
5. McCulloch, M. (2018, September 23). 12 health benefits of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Healthline. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dha-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5
6. Rao TS, Asha MR, Ramesh BN, Rao KS. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008;50(2):77-82. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.42391