Eating for mental health: Foods that nourish your brain and fight depression
06/30/2019 / By Zoey Sky / Comments
Eating for mental health: Foods that nourish your brain and fight depression

Eating well can help improve your physical health and strengthen your immune system. But if you want to boost your mental health, you can eat foods rich in folate and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve your mood.

Foods that can improve your mental health

Several studies show that individuals diagnosed with depression are deficient in certain vitamins and compounds. The good news is, these naturally occurring compounds can be obtained from various sources. Foods rich in these vitamins and compounds can act as natural antidepressants, and adding them to your diet is a great way to avoid the use of antidepressants, which are often linked to many negative side effects. According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, tryptophan, and other B vitamins can help improve the mood of individuals with depression. The researchers also advised that factors like diet, exercise, and sleep quality should be considered when determining effective methods of improving the mental health and mood of those with depression. If you want to enhance your mood or manage your depression through natural means, consider adding more of the foods listed below to your diet.

Asparagus

Asparagus is full of folate and omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin K. The folate in asparagus helps lower your risk of developing depression by preventing an excess of an amino acid called homocysteine from forming in your body. This amino acid can block blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. An excess of homocysteine may interfere with the production of three "feel-good" hormones: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These hormones help regulate your sleep, appetite, and mood. Add asparagus to your diet by eating it as a nutritious side dish or by adding bite-sized pieces to a salad. Asparagus can be eaten raw or cooked, and it can boost your heart health and prevent osteoporosis.

Mackerel

Overall, fish have high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that are crucial for healthy brain functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids fall into the PUFA category. Mackerel is rich in omega-3, an essential fatty acid (EFA). Other types of fish like anchovies, herring, and salmon, are also full of EFAs.

Spinach

Spinach also contains fatty acids and is rich in folate. Folate deficiency is associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing depressive episodes and suffering from recurrent episodes over time. Other dark, leafy green vegetables also contain folate. In particular, spinach has very high levels of folate. A cup of cooked spinach contains more than half the recommended daily intake (RDI) of folate. Raw spinach is also rich in folate. Add raw spinach to salads or sandwiches to boost your overall mood. (Related: Beat depression by eating more fiber, vegetables.)

Walnuts

Walnuts are full of both folate and omega-3. Walnuts are versatile, and you can eat a handful of the nuts as a nutritious snack. Alternatively, you can add walnuts to baked goods, desserts, or savory dishes. Eat walnuts to boost your brain health and improve your mood. When shopping for these foods, always buy organic vegetables to avoid harmful chemicals. Before making any drastic changes to your diet, consult your health care provider. Follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep to improve your overall well-being. To help manage your depression, eat foods that also function as natural antidepressants, such as asparagus, mackerel, spinach, and walnuts. Sources include: SteadyHealth.com ResearchGate.net MedicalNewsToday.com
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