Nutrition for a Healthy State of Mind

By Anja Springthorpe 

There could not be more truth to the statement “You are what you eat.” And in fact, we should extend this to “You feel how you eat.”  It is now well established that our food choices can significantly affect our mood and may even play a role in the development of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and even addiction. 

The foods we consume nourish our brain with energy and nutrients.  A balanced and varied diet including fruits, vegetables and wholegrains maintains healthy brain function and supports a healthy, happy mind. 

Brain Boosting Nutrients:

Omega-3 Fats 
The brain is made up almost entirely of omega-3 fatty acids and deficiency is associated with mental disorders.  Because the human body cannot produce these fats, we have to ensure adequate dietary intake to provide the building blocks for a well working brain.  Aim for oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel) twice a week.  Seeds and nuts also contain omega-3 fats and should be a daily feature on your plate.

Tryptophan
This amino acid is required to produce the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin.  Low levels of serotonin can trigger or worsen mood disorders including depression.  Tryptophan-rich foods include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils and eggs. 

B-vitamins
B-vitamins are vital for brain health.  Fruits, vegetables, meat and legumes are all sources of B-vitamins and a varied diet will ensure sufficient B-vitamin intake.  Alcohol depletes B-vitamins and should only be consumed occasionally in moderation.

Curcumin  
The compound that causes turmeric’s bright color has been found to alleviate symptoms of mental disorders and protect against depression.  Add generous amounts of turmeric to soups, curries, dressings, sauces and smoothies.

Avoid Junk Food 
Research correlates junk food consumption with a higher risk of mental problems.  This may be due to the fact that junk food often is nutritionally inadequate as well as high in saturated and trans-fats, both of which have negative effects on mental well-being. 

 

 

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