8 Natural Ways To Boost Mental Health
Did you know stress, headaches, nervousness, anger, fatigue are due to the deficiency of certain vitamins/minerals in your diet?
Mental health is an essential part of holistic health. The prevalence of mental illnesses is increasing day by day across the globe. Studies have shown that the occurrence of mental illnesses like stress, depression, anxiety and panic disorders are greatly influenced by our eating habits and dietary patterns. Let us discuss some of the natural foods which acts as natural anti-depressants and promote cognitive health.
1. Fatty Fish: Fatty fishes like sardine, salmon, tuna, mackerel are packed with omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are considered excellent for our brain health due to the presence of EPA and DHA. Omega 3 fats possess powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them a boon for our brain health. Numerous studies have shown that low levels of DHA are associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. In addition, omega 3 fats also minimises the effect of cortisol stress hormone.
2. Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are popularly consumed by weight watchers who are aiming to lose or maintain weight due to their high dietary fibre content. But in addition to fibre, chia seeds also come with the benefits of omega 3 fats. Chia seeds contain omega 3 fats in the form of ALA with strong anti-inflammatory traits. It has been shown that stress, depression usually causes alteration in the blood sugar levels and hunger hormones. Altered hormone levels increases the cravings of junk, fatty and sugar rich foods. High dietary fibre content of chia seeds not only provide dietary fibre, stabilises blood sugar levels, prevent hunger cravings but their omega 3 fats combat inflammation, depression and anxiety risk.
3. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potato is another incredibly nutritious food which work wonders for our brain and overall health. Sweet potatoes are naturally rich in tryptophan - an amino acid which our body utilises to synthesise melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is critically needed to maintain and regulate sleep cycle, and serotonin has been shown to regulate our mood, appetite and behaviour. In addition, sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin A and C, which makes them good for our brain health. Both Vitamin A and C fight free radicals, inflammation and protect our brain cells from getting damaged. Sweet potatoes are also high in magnesium and potassium which reduces cortisol and high blood pressure that increases with stress.
4. Avocados - Avocados are packed with brain benefitting good fats in the form of MUFA. They also contain high levels of folate, potassium and magnesium; all of which promote healthy brain functioning by reducing the level of stress and anxiety. High levels of folate are also critical to improve mood, for proper brain development and prevent neural tube defects.
5. Eggs - Eggs are also loved by our brain cells due to the presence of ample of nutrients. Eggs are one of rich sources of choline which is an important nutrient required to synthesise neurotransmitter - acetylcholine, that helps regulate mood and memory. In addition, eggs also contain vitamin B12 and folate which are imperative for mood and sleep. They support adequate functioning of brain cells and prevent brain disorders during early stages of brain development. Similar to sweet potatoes, eggs are also naturally rich in tryptophan, needed for the production of melatonin and serotonin.
6. Green Leafy Vegetables - Green leafy veggies should be an essential part of your diet if you love your brain cells. Veggies like spinach, fenugreek leaves, kale, lettuce, mustard leaves, bathua leaves and collard greens are some of the healthiest options we can choose. All these veggies are packed with nutrients like iron, vitamin K, carotene, folate, etc. which are associated with cognitive health. Studies have associated the consumption of green leafy veggies with a decreased risk of age-related neurological disorders like Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. People who consume green leafy vegetables are less prone to brain atrophy in the later stage of life.
7. Pumpkin Seeds - Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients like zinc, magnesium, iron, dietary fibre and tryptophan. Their high zinc content primarily make pumpkin seeds excellent for brain health as zinc is required for the synthesis of brain cells, RNA, DNA and spinal cord. Their high magnesium and tryptophan content also keeps our brain calmer, suppresses stress and anxiety levels. They prevent neurodegeneration and promote regeneration. Therefore, binge on these nutrient dense snack whenever you want to enjoy a healthy snack in between the meals.
8. Quinoa - Quinoa is a pseudo cereal which is gluten-free and rich in nutrients like iron, potassium, magnesium and dietary fibre. Quinoa is one of the protein rich foods which has all nine essential amino acids hence regarded as a complete plant-based protein source. High levels of minerals present in quinoa are directly associated with serotonin, melatonin and GABA which helps us sleep better. Its high dietary fibre content ensures sustained supply of energy and prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
To conclude, mental well-being is supremely important and should never be overlooked. A healthy, well-balanced diet along with an active lifestyle is the key to overall health and well-being. It is not wise to ignore symptoms like stress, frequent headaches, nervousness, anger and fatigue as they could be due to the nutritional deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals. Aim to include these brain health boosting foods and many other like milk, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, olives, etc. to ward off or prevent brain illnesses.
(Author is Founder, Steadfast Nutrition)