We’re reminded daily to exercise, eat healthy, and do things that are good for our bodies physically, but we often tend to slack when it comes to our own mental health. Mom’s (and Dad’s) can be most guilty of this. We spend so much time making sure everyone else’s needs are met that sometimes we forget to take care of our own. Mental health is just as important as our physical health, and if we can give ourselves any edge, we should. So read on Mom’s, you may already be be bringing a lot of these items into your daily diet!
Think about it. Your brain is always working. It takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses — even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel and what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.
There is a relationship between nutrients and food that cannot be replicated in supplements. Many nutrients work together in order to be successful. For example, the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, calcium is not absorbed. When we eat a variety of healthy food, the body gets the combinations of nutrients it needs to feed the brain. All of these pieces work together. While the digestive system is known for processing food through the body, it also influences a person’s emotional health. In fact, serotonin, which is mainly produced in the gastrointestinal tract, is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. Our brains use these nutrients to stabilize our moods and give clarity to our thinking. All of these pieces work together, when given the right fuel.
- Oysters: Zinc is an important mental health nutrient and oysters are far and away higher in zinc than any other food. 4 oz of cooked oysters have more than 5X the recommended daily amount of zinc. Oysters are also good sources of vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium.
- Chia seeds: These little powerhouses have an enormous amount of omega 3’s. One tablespoon packs 1769 mg of omega 3’s. The recommended daily amount of omega 3 is 1000-3000 mg. They also have a strong positive ratio to omega 6 at 583 mg – about 4:1. This gives you some omega 3’s “in the bank” so to speak where the goal is a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. They also have calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Brazil Nuts: This often overlooked nut is the King of Nuts when it comes to mental health nutrients. Like other nuts, the brazil nut is a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, and tryptophan. But the thing that distinguishes the brazil nut from all other nuts is its selenium content. Six brazil nuts have 537 mcg of selenium compared to almonds’ 0.2 mcg and cashews’ 0.7. One brazil nut provides about 125% of the daily requirement of selenium.
- Lean Protein: Fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and beans, among other protein sources, can help keep serotonin levels balanced. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and increase the amount of serotonin produced which can directly affect a person’s mood.
- Omega 3’s Salmon, mackerel, and walnuts are great sources for omega-3 fatty acids, which have a significant effect on the production of neurotransmitters to help boost learning and memory. These nutrients can help reduce depression and increase the production of “feel good” chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in the body.
- Whole Grains The brain’s main source of energy is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. Complex, whole-grain carbohydrates release glucose more slowly, helping the body feel fuller longer and providing a steady fuel source. Grains such as brown rice, oats and quinoa are rich in amino acids, such as lysine, which help regulate stress and anxiety.
- Berries These fruit varieties are high in antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber. For example, blueberries are great for improved memory and concentration and increase levels of serotonin in the brain to help alleviate depression.
- Eggs: Besides fatty fish like salmon, and some mushrooms, eggs are one of the few food sources of vitamin D. They are high in protein and can also be a source of omega 3’s if they come from pasture raised chickens. Eggs are a good source of vitamin B12.
- Greens Spinach, kale, broccoli, and asparagus are a few examples of greens full of mood and energy-boosting vitamins and minerals. Folate, commonly found in leafy greens, is known to regulate the production of serotonin and help prevent feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Dark Chocolate Flavonoids in dark chocolate increase healthy blood flow to the brain. This helps improve memory and prevent mental decline throughout the aging process. Dark chocolate is also high in magnesium, which suppresses stress hormones like cortisol.