Good health starts with good nutrition. This is also true for mental health. Here are five categories of foods and nutritents that may help keep you both healthy and happy.
- Carbohydrates – When we eat breads, rice, and pasta our bodies convert these foods to glucose (sugar) which is what our brains need to help us think clearly and feel our best. Consuming whole grain carbohydrates (brown or wild rice, bulgur, and oats) will provide your brain with a longer lasting source of glucose making you feel happier, longer!
- Omega-3 fatty acids-Salmon, mackerel, and trout are good sources of these healthy fats. Not only do these fats help protect the heart, but they may protect some of the neurological connections in our brains as well. Add fish to your weekly menu… your brain will thank you for it!
- Vitamin D – This important vitamin increases serotonin levels in the brain which may prevent feelings of depression. Mushrooms, whole milk, and fish contain vitamin D. Exposing skin to sunlight (without sunscreen) also triggers our bodies to make vitamin D naturally! If you are fair skinned check with your dermatologist before using this method.
- Beans and legumes – High in folate, which is most often associated with maintaining gut health, we often forget that folate has also been associated with fewer depressive symptoms particularly in the elderly.
- Nuts and seeds – A favorite mid-afternoon pick-me-up snack, nuts and seeds are good sources of an important mineral, selenium. There is some evidence that selenium helps reduce symptoms of depression and improve mood.
If you would like additional support for managing stress, anxiety and minor depression naturally, talk to a naturopathic doctor. Call Bastyr University Clinic to schedule an appointment at 858.246.9730 or request an appointment online.
By Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN, CHES, EP-C, associate professor, Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program at Bastyr University California.