It is the month of Mental Health Awareness.
Did you know that your diet can affect your mental health?
Diet Doctor said it this way: “Emerging science now points towards a link between nutrition and mental health.”
You have to realize that now, more than ever, your mental health is a priority. You can take care of your mental health in more ways than one. I will categorically say that food is definitely one of them.
Food is probably just a part of your regular and daily routine but it plays a larger role on your health. It is necessary to consider the role it plays on your emotional and mental health, aside your physical health.
Health is wealth, they say. Your health also includes your emotional and mental well-being as much as it concerns your physical well-being.
How is your health? How is your mental health? How have you been treating it?
We all experience feelings ranging from fatigue to burnout to mental stress and other feelings that are likely indicators of the state of our mental well-being.
Taking adequate care about the food we eat is one way to improve the state of our mental health.
Eating certain foods can help to improve our mental health when we add them to our diet/nutrition from time to time.
Let us take a look at six of them including their benefits.
1. Fruits and Vegetables:
Of course they’ll make first place on the list. Their importance can not be overstated.
Your green vegetables – especially the dark greens – are very important and they ought to be present in almost all your diet, if not all, one way or another.
Vegetables such as Ugu, Spinach (Efo tete), African Basil (Efinrin), Water leaf (Gbure), Bitter leaf (Ewuro), Afang leaf and others contain Vitamin B and Folate which are associated with improved mental health.
Fruits have also been reported to be associated with healthy mental states. Take fruits such as bananas, carrots, apples to boost your mental health status.
Fruits and vegetables were reported in a study to be associated with less mental stress. You should definitely up your fruit and veggies consumption game to get these benefits.
Oats are fiber-rich foods which have been linked to improving mood swings quickly. Oats which are also rich in Vitamin B and Folate, are excellent for improving mental clarity.
Oats are energy-giving food and should become an important part of our diet. Try taking oatmeals from time to time, they are known to also serve as comforting foods.
Fatty (or oily) fish are good sources of Omega 3- fats.
When present in the body, Omega-3 acids increases blood flow in the brain and play a role in improving the cognitive activities of the brain.
These acids are really essential nutrients that the body needs but can’t produce on it’s own.
You can provide your body with this essential nutrient that it needs by eating fatty fish like Herring (Shawa), Mackerel (Titus), Horse Mackerel (Kote). They have high levels of Omega-3 acid.
Yoghurt are useful and they help to improve one’s mental health in a significant way by helping the brain to take in nutrients.
The gut is where serotonin is produced so it is very important to make sure that the gut is healthy. Yoghurt contains high level of probiotics that support gut health.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (like dopamine) and it helps to maintain a sense of well-being.
Serotonin is involved in many human behaviours and reactions including appetite, sexual drive, mood, how we respond to stress among other things.
Studies have begun to show association between having a healthy gut and reduced rate of depression in individuals.
Adding yoghurt to your regular diet should be a no-brainer. For a drink that has such great benefits, yoghurt surely has a great taste as well. You should take it often.
The types of vitamins present in eggs have been reportedly linked to improved state of mental well-being. Folate, Choline, Vitamins B6 and B12 help to improve the functionality of the brain.
Eggs especially the yolk contains choline in large quantity. Egg also break down bethane, a chemical linked to happiness and can boost your mood.
The B vitamins present in eggs improve mental functionality by slowing down mental decline in adults.
If you are looking to boost your mood, be sure to add eggs to your diet.
These hard-shelled fruits have a lot of protein and Omega-3 fats to offer your body. Walnuts have been reported to support brain health as well as the best source of Omega-3 fats.
Research showed that depression level became lower among those who ate 2-4 walnuts daily.
Peanuts (or groundnuts) and cashews have also been found to improve cognitive abilities and enhance good moods.
Tiger nuts helps improve digestion and better mental health especially as they contain vitamin E. Tiger nuts can be made into milks for drinking.
There is saying that if you want to avoid going nuts, eat as many nuts as you can! Not too much though, to avoid stomach bloating.
The Effect of Your Diet on Your Mental Health
It may seem like taking sugary foods when stressed or involving in emotional eating will help improve our moods in the short-term. But, they have adverse effects. Such eating habits can be harmful to our health – physically and mentally.
A study showed a striking improvement in their participants depression levels after they were each subjected to following a healthy diet as against the other group.
We have established that the food you eat is connected to how your brain and mind functions, if for no reason other than that the human brain is largely responsible functionality of the body system.
The simple task of taking healthy meals that supports your mental health as well as going for therapy sessions (if you can afford it) would benefit you in the long run, whether you are depressed or not.
Eating the right diet is not necessarily a cure for depression by itself but it can significantly improve it.
You can incorporate these foods into your diet one at at time, rather than try to do it all at once.
Mental health is a big deal. So many people are dealing with things that they can’t even name.
Adopt diets and behaviours that will benefit your brain health. Stay hydrated, don’t skip your meals.
Eat foods that will improve your overall physical health and mental wellness. Your mental health is important. Take it serious.
©Oluwakemi Elizabeth Oyedele