There is no denying that what you eat impacts how you feel. Not only on an emotional level. Of course, we’ve built up all kinds of relationships to “cheat meals”, “treats” and “moderation”. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the actual biochemistry that supports or hinders your mood. We’re talking about how nutrients are essential to feeding your brain. We’re also talking about how your physiology impacts your mental health. How your gut is your second brain and how what you eat impacts how you feel.
What are some general guidelines you can live by?
1 – When you’re feeling down, stuff yourself with nutrition and not comfort foods.
Eating right for mental health is actually pretty simple. Eat more whole, real, natural foods and less processed and junk foods. When we eat a variety of healthy food, the body gets the combinations of nutrients it needs to feed the brain. Our brains use these nutrients to stabilize our moods and give clarity to our thinking. Our communication, cognition and performance thrive as well.
2 – Heal your gut.
Recent research suggests a link between good gut health and good mental health. Good bacteria in the gut is essential for good gut health. And since the nerve cells in our gut manufacture 80 to 90 percent of our body’s serotonin (the critical neurotransmitter that keeps us happy) we can’t afford to ignore our intestinal health.
3 – Daily healthy actions provide long-term benefits.
It’s when things are going well that you have to practice the most. This will ensure that when things aren’t going well, you have the habits and tools that you need to stay afloat. When you are stressed, anxious or depressed, this is the most important time to eat healthy. Having built those habits prior to your mood swing will prevent you from going too deep into your imbalance…. And it will probably prevent you from having a mood swing all together.
So what are some foods that you can include in your daily life to keep your brain happy?
Below, I’ve selected the 5 Top Foods to Boost your Mood.
1 – Tomatoes
The more we read about tomatoes, the more we want to add them to our meals! Eat six cherry tomatoes daily to ward off neurodegenerative damage. They are high in folic and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which fight off depression and help the body convert glucose into energy. Packed with lycopene and beta-carotene, tomatoes protect the fragile fats in your brain (your brain is 80% fat BTW) and studies show that they can reverse neurological damage and keep you smart.
2 – Homemade Sauerkraut
Fermented foods, such as yogurt with active cultures, kefir, kimchi, tempeh and certain pickled vegetables, contain probiotics (healthy bacteria) which have been shown in studies to reduce anxiety, stress hormones and effect the neurotransmitter GABA. More research is emerging on the benefits of GABA in relieving anxiety, improving sleep, reducing depression and improving focus in ADHD. Probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria. Just make sure you aren’t buying your sauerkraut off the shelf. It should be unpasteurized and from the fridge or, better yet, made at home.
3 – Berries
Berries are antioxidant powerhouses. Antioxidants are like DNA repairmen. They go around fixing your cells and preventing them from getting cancer and other illnesses. They are extremely rich in anthocyanins, gallic and chlorogenic acid which can help reduce the risk of mental illness. They have also been found to support memory, language and learning abilities. Their high fiber content make them low-glycemic so they don’t spike sugar and insulin levels.
4 – Brazil nuts
Just one Brazil nut each day will provide you with 125% of your daily selenium requirements. Selenium is one of the key components needed in keeping our cells from oxidizing. Having selenium in our system will protect the essential fats that we consume so that our body can utilize them effectively. Studies have also shown that when we are deficient in selenium, the last place our selenium levels drop is in the brain. This implies the importance of selenium to our brain health. Remember, our brain is 80% fat. They are also high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin.
5 – Salmon
Speaking of fats, salmon is a rich source of much needed omega 3 essential fats. One serving of 3 ounces of salmon provides us with almost 2g of this essential oil. Mental health advocates recommend approximately 3g of omega 3 daily for optimal brain function. Salmon is also high in tryptophan and is an excellent food source of vitamin D. Both are needed to support your happiness. Need more omega 3? You can also find high levels in chia seeds and walnuts.
We can’t say it enough and thank you to Hippocrates for his insight:
“Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food”.
The more whole foods you eat, the better you will feel in body and mind.
Healthy fats are crucial to brain health. Especially since your body is approximately 80% fat! But lean proteins and whole grain carbohydrates are also important. Complex carbohydrates facilitate the entry of tryptophan into the brain, reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety and improving overall cognitive function. Lean protein are high in tryptophan, which helps your brain and your healthy gut create serotonin. Serotonin can make you happier and calmer.