How Food Can Boost Your Mental Health  

If eating certain meals can leave you feeling tired, sluggish or even sad, what if eating other foods could make you feel lighter, more energized and ready to face the day ahead? There has been a lot of research lately on the connection between diet and mental health. Some of the findings are focused on how foods can make people feel better. Let’s look at how food can boost your mental health.  

When people talk about finding ways to improve their mental health, in the past many of those conversations may have centered on therapy, medication and other forms of self-help. But increasingly people are talking about the food-to-brain pathway.  

Nutritional Psychiatry. People often eat specific foods to help them build muscle, shed pounds or boost their body’s antioxidant levels. Eating for better mental health is just the latest food-body connection being studied.   

The growing research that focuses on how a person’s daily diet impacts how they feel is called nutritional psychiatry. It offers a way to support good mental health by focusing on the foods people eat, the amount of nutrients they are getting, and lifestyle changes they make with the goal of feeling better, according to Healthline.   

Mind-Gut connection. Eating healthy food is good for your brain. Taking that a step further, nutritious foods that help create and maintain the “good bacteria” load in your gut can have a direct connection to how you feel mentally, according to Harvard Medical School. One example of this gut-mind connection is a neurotransmitter like serotonin, which makes people feel happy and relaxed. Most of a person’s serotonin is produced in the gut, and good gut bacteria fueled by the foods they eat can boost the level of serotonin being made.   

So what foods are considered good-mood foods that improve your mental health? Healthline has these tips:  

  • Focus on eating high-quality, nutrient-dense foods   
  • Incorporate fruits and vegetables in each meal  
  • Choose Omega-3 foods like walnuts, chia seeds and salmon  
  • Add B Vitamins with whole grains, chicken breast, fatty fish, potatoes and bananas  
  • Get Vitamin C with citrus fruits, strawberries and red peppers  

  Let’s take a closer look at why some of these foods and food groups are good for your mental health:   

  • Berries: Blueberries, raspberries and other berries are little antioxidant jewels. Eat them either fresh or frozen. Diets rich in berries have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can cause chronic diseases. 
  • Dark chocolate: This sweet treat not only tastes good, its flavonoid compounds can boost brain health and may also improve mood.  
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts are great for snacking. They’re packed with good fats, minerals and nutrients. Studies have shown that people who eat moderate amounts of nuts each week have lower levels of depression.   

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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