When we think of the effects of what we eat, we're usually thinking about the physical aspects. We're typically concerned with what foods will help us lose weight/gain muscle or what foods help with eyesight or bone health. People often either ignore the fact or are unaware that food impacts more than just our physical well-being.
This can work both with and against you depending on your diet. Eating healthy foods that are full of nutrients can have a positive effect on mental health, while eating poorly can negatively affect your mood.
If you've been feeling down, unenergetic, or just not like yourself lately, your daily food profile may be to blame. A diet lacking essential minerals and nutrients can be a contributing factor in many mental health issues like bipolar disorder, ADHS, and anxiety attacks.
Although it isn't a widespread practice yet, nutritional psychiatry has been gaining traction over recent years. Nutritional psychiatry uses dietary nutrients and supplements as a component of an integrated treatment program for mental health conditions.
Most people suffering from depression are treated with therapy and medication. This doesn't seem to be enough since depression is still on the rise. Antidepressants aren't always reliable enough and can cause dependency. Because the current treatment options aren't completely effective, more research is being put into alternative methods, including nutritional psychiatry.
Deficiency in the following nutrients affect your mental wellness the most:
Zinc deficiencies can alter your appetite, mood, emotional state, energy levels, and more. Good sources of zinc include chicken, oysters, chickpeas, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Protein is very important for your mental health because it provides the building blocks for neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These affect happiness, mood, and motivation. Make sure to eat foods like fish, oats, lentils, cheese, and tofu so that you get the right amino acids to build those neurotransmitters.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids greatly affect brain health. A person with a diet lacking EPA and DHA may experience mood swings, anxiety, or difficulty focusing. Great sources include salmon, mackerel, and sardines. If you're not crazy about fish, you can also eat walnuts, flaxseed, or grass-fed beef.
A common mistake many people make when trying to lose weight is avoiding carbs. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body and are perfectly healthy when derived from the right sources. Carbs help produce neurotransmitters and regulate sleep and appetite. Good sources of carbs include vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
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Most people lack selenium from their diets because it can only be found in select foods. Studies have shown that people who included selenium in their diet saw improved mood. Two to three Brazil nuts will provide you with your daily recommended amount of selenium.
People with iron deficiency may experience low energy, fatigue, restlessness, depression, and anxiety. Research also has linked suboptimal iron levels with children with ADHD. Make sure to include a lot of dark leafy greens, quinoa, lentils and meat in your diet to get your daily recommendation of iron.
- Vitamin D
Not only is Vitamin D good for bones and the immune system, but it also supports the production of neurotransmitters. Fortified foods provide the most Vitamin D. Fatty fish are the best sources of Vitamin D. Other sources include mushrooms, fortified milk and egg yolk.
Studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements daily improved emotional state, regardless of gender, age, and severity of the condition. You can get magnesium from bananas, avocados, salmon, chickpeas, broccoli, and asparagus.
- Vitamin B12
B12 is known to support nerve health, improve brain functions, and support DNA and red blood cell production. Vitamin B12 is typically found in dairy products, eggs and meat. Examples include tuna, sardines, clams, trout, and beef.
Depression is a key symptom of folate deficiency. Folate is a type of B vitamin. You can get folate from asparagus, broccoli, lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans. It may also be a good idea take an L-Methylfolate supplement to help your body utilize folic acid!