9 Foods That Boost Mental Health

The type of food we eat every day is closely linked to our emotions, moods, mental health, and overall outlook on life. Eating healthy foods not only improves the functioning of your brain but also helps your body get rid of toxins that may lead to health complications later in life. 

When planning a healthy diet, people often focus on foods that are low in calories. However, a healthy and balanced diet must also include items that provide nutrition to the brain. This article provides a comprehensive list of food items that helps you boost memory, improve brain function, increase attention span, and help fight certain diseases and disorders related to the brain. 

How Does Food Affect Mental Health?

Much research has been conducted to find a connection between mental health and food. Scientific studies prove that consuming foods high in sugar, salt, and additives, deficiency of fatty acids, and use of processed items are directly linked to decreased brain function, anxiety, stress, and depression. On the contrary, foods rich in complex carbs, fatty acids, and omega 3 not only improve mental health but also help fight a variety of cognitive diseases. 

Decreased Dopamine Levels: Processed foods, excessive sugar consumption, and drug abuse are all factors that raise dopamine levels in the blood, limiting brain activity and interfering with neuron functions. Consistent high dopamine levels in drug abuse victims often result in partial brain function, memory loss, anxiety, depression, and severe mood swings. A diet high in healthy fat, complex carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals help control blood sugar and dopamine levels. As a result, many reputable rehabilitation centers, such as Restorations Health Care, develop diet plans for patients that include foods that boost mental health. When combined with medication, these foods help reduce dopamine levels in the blood, increase brain function, and strengthen memory. 

Curing or Maintaining Mental Conditions: People with limited brain function are often prescribed low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets which include a variety of proteins, healthy organic fats, and leafy greens. This is because the bacteria residing in our gastrointestinal tract directly influence the production of neurotransmitters that carry messages from the gut to the brain. A steady intake of LCHF foods plays a positive role in curing or managing cognitive diseases and conditions like ASD, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. 

9 Foods to Boost Mental Health

The foods listed below have been scientifically proven to promote mental health and improve memory:

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is one of the most effective foods for boosting brain function. Fish, particularly Salmon, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids directly impact a person’s mental health, reduce stress and depression, boost memory, and decrease mood swings. This is because fat constitutes a major portion of the brain. It uses fatty acids like omega-3 to develop new cells and build nerves. The use of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce learning impairments and age-related mental deterioration. 

2. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E protects a brain cell from damage and slows down mental deterioration. Eating healthy nuts and seeds can mitigate the risk of developing cognitive diseases and help improve memory and brain function. It also helps in improving heart health and memory. 

Seeds include essential nutrients like zinc, iron, magnesium, and copper that are critical for nerve cells to send, receive, and process signals to and from the brain. A sufficient intake of seeds helps improve depression, migraine, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy symptoms. 

3. Healthy Organic Fats

Healthy organic fats include cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, butter, and clarified butter. Healthy fats, especially avocados, are super rich in vitamin K and folate. These two nutrients protect the brain against various cognitive diseases and brain degeneration. Controlled use of healthy fat improves attention span, boosts memory, and treats mental conditions like brain fog, migraine, chronic depression, and memory loss. 

4. Coffee

Coffee is abundant in caffeine – an essential component that increases metabolism throughout the brain. Caffeine is also associated with lower dopamine levels and increased noradrenaline neuron activity. Research shows that caffeine positively affects mood and helps decrease anxiety and depression, and reduces the onset of panic attacks. It stimulates the central nervous system and makes you feel more alert, focused, and fresh. 

5. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is another rich source of caffeine. On top of that, dark chocolate has an abundance of antioxidants. However, using processed chocolate with excess sugar and fats nullifies the effect. Physicians and dieticians recommend eating dark chocolate with 85% or above cocoa but in limited portions. Dark chocolate helps increase focus and decrease mood swings. It is most commonly associated with an instant elevation in mood and reduced depression. 

6. Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are mostly found in whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, beans, and legumes, as well as wheat bran, psyllium husk, peas, vegetables with high fiber content, and certain fruits like strawberries, grapefruits, and prunes. Complex carbs help minimize sugar ingestion and increase blood flow to the brain. As a result, complex carbs have a significant role in improving mental health. 

7. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens and vegetables like spinach, cabbage, bok choy, kale, mustard greens, lettuce, and beet greens are rich in folic acid and other vitamins essential for mental health. The use of leafy greens is not limited to a certain portion. Regular intake of leafy greens significantly reduces symptoms of depression. It helps fight insomnia, memory loss, and mental deterioration. 

8. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are rich in probiotics which are good bacteria for gut health. Improved gut health has a direct positive impact on brain function and mental health. Include fermented foods like kimchi, miso, kombucha, and pickles in moderation in your regular diet to fight depression and anxiety. 

9. Chicken and Eggs

Chicken and eggs are rich sources of various nutrients essential for mental health. Chicken is a lean protein abundant in amino acids. Amino acid is directly linked with the production of serotonin – a compound that acts as a neurotransmitter and regulates mood. Adequate levels of serotonin in your body reduce symptoms of depression, increases attention span, and make you emotionally stable and happy. 

Eggs provide nutrients, including vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, iron, selenium, and choline. Choline, like serotonin, acts as a neurotransmitter. The ideal proportions of essential nutrients in eggs can dramatically improve mental function and help reduce dementia, depression, and Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Final Thoughts

The food we eat daily directly impacts our physical and mental health. While food alone cannot cure mental illness, it is thought to be a catalyst for improving mental health when combined with prescribed medication. The foods listed above have been scientifically proven to improve mental health and aid in managing cognitive diseases. To promote mental health, it is critical to include adequate portions of healthy foods in our daily diets while avoiding foods that cause mental health deterioration. So, in addition to these healthy options, avoid processed foods, processed vegetable oils, excess sugar, simple carbs, fried foods, and starch.e

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