The foods we eat affect our health, but we tend to think of the effect on our physical health. The truth is, our diets also affect our mental health. Food is fuel for our bodies and our brains. This means the foods that you eat on a regular basis have the power to impact your mood, anxiety levels, feelings of depression, and your ability to manage stress.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates “50% of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.” And while the cause of mental disorders varies, the prevalence is affected by our diets and food choices.
Here are a few ways to improve mental health with food:
1. Fish and Omega-3s
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines, promote brain health and improve mental health.
2. Complex Carbohydrates
Not all carbohydrates are the same. Complex carbs, such as whole grains, oats, and brown rice, provide a steady fuel source for the brain. Unlike simple sugars, which cause extreme spikes and dips of your blood sugar levels, complex carbs slowly release glucose into the blood.
3. Lean Sources of Protein
Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies. They form the foundation of essential chemicals that keep our brains functioning properly, making lean protein sources like fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and beans necessary in your diet.
4. Leafy Greens
There’s a reason why “eat your greens” is a popular saying. Leafy greens like spinach and kale include nutrients linked to reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, and mental fatigue.
5. Active Cultures
Foods like yogurt contain active cultures that promote gut health. A healthy gut means less inflammation in your body. And less inflammation is tied to reduced anxiety and stress hormones.
You can improve your mental health by including these foods in your daily meals. In addition, remember to drink plenty of water and avoid processed, sugary foods as much as possible.
If you are looking to start back up with your health and fitness goals, the YMCA of Greater Whittier is here for you! Contact us to learn more about the programs we’re offering that will get you back on track.