Foods to support mental health
Depression is a growing concern in the U.S. as more adults, teens, and children are being diagnosed every day. There are many pharmaceutical drugs available on the market to treat the symptoms of depression and not every drug works for every person. Many of these drugs have various side effects, varying from mild to severe, and can sometimes be dangerous to health. Did you know that you can use whole foods to help manage depression symptoms without the side effects and health concerns? Either in conjunction with prescription anti-depressants or as standalone supplements, whole foods that support mental health can be very powerful tools. As always, I do not recommend stopping or changing any prescribed medications without talking with your doctor.
Some whole foods have been shown to help with the symptoms of depression, anxiety and mental health overall. The basis of how these foods help is rooted in supporting neurotransmission of messages between cells, nerves and the brain. If your body is deficient in neurotransmitters, you may experience the symptoms of depression, anxiety, poor sleep, chronic fatigue, compulsive behaviors and many other life altering issues. By eating foods that support your neurotransmitters, you are supporting your overall mental health, which as we all know, can change your outlook on life and how you interact with your environment.
Many vitamins and minerals specifically support these neurotransmitters, and many hormones rely on them as well. The most important vitamins and minerals for mental health include:
EPA and DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids)
Vitamins A, B6, B12, and C
Nutrients like these help to support the proper movement of electrical impulses from within and out of the brain, affecting things like, mood, restfulness of sleep, stress response, anxiety and many others. Some neurotransmitters can have a more specific effect on depression symptoms, and certain foods can definitely help to regulate how well they work. The neurotransmitters we hope to support with these nutrients include:
Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA)
Healthy levels of serotonin play an important role in promoting happiness, restful sleep and a better overall mood. Dopamine is a big player in regulating the brain’s reward centers, which involve pleasure and motivation. Healthy levels of dopamine also impact memory, mood, sleep and a person’s ability to learn. The neurotransmitter GABA is responsible for feelings of calm. The right levels of GABA reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
So, which foods contain these nutrients and help support your mental health? There’s many, many foods, but I’ll list the 10 best to give you a good variety to choose from that fit your tastes.
3. Seafood (Octopus, crab, tuna, smelt, fish roe (fish eggs), bluefish, wolfish, pollock, lobster, rainbow trout, snail, spot fish, salmon, herring, snapper)
4. Organ Meats (Spleen, kidneys, or heart, and poultry giblets)
5. Leafy Greens- (Watercress, spinach, mustard, turnip, chicory and beet greens, Swiss chard, dandelion, collard greens and the herbs cilantro, basil, parsley and kale)
7. Cruciferous Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes.)
8. Citrus Fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes)
9. Berries (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
10. Fermented Foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha)
So, as you can see, there’s a TON of different options to help you support your mental health and they’re all healthy, delicious, whole foods sources. Whether you just want to boost your mood and help with mild anxiety or need an add-on to support a mental health medication in a holistic way, include these foods daily to get a boost of nutrients and support your mood too!