Let’s talk about it. Mental wellness. It still has such stigma. We need to continue to talk about it and to make this a focus of prevention. Focusing on foods that might benefit brain health is not going to solve the mental health story but hey, it certainly can’t hurt.
The following lists some of the nutrients that have many health benefits but notably support brain health.
Probiotics– have been a big buzz topic in many different areas of health from immune health to mental health. Some of the benefits of probiotics that have been researched lately include decreasing depression, decreasing stress signaling, and decreasing inflammation. The great thing about probiotics is that there are no major side effects from taking them. Now you can find certain supplement formulas for mood. Food sources of probiotics include: kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables.
Omega 3 fatty acids– are essential to neurological health by helping to build cell walls in your brain and nervous system. They decrease inflammation throughout your body also. Research suggests that they might improve mood, prevent Alzheimers and dementia. Omega 3s might also help with anxiety, depression and ADHD. The best food sources are algae and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring. There are also omega 3s in seeds such as hemp and flax. We need all of the different types of omega 3 fatty acids from the seeds and ocean sources. It’s important to incorporate both sources.
B vitamins– provide both short and long term neurological health. They are integral for neurotransmitter (chemicals that send messages in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA) formation. They are also known as happy vitamins or anti-stress vitamins. B vitamins might also help prevent mental decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Food sources include meat, seafood, potatoes, bananas, dairy products and whole grains.
Magnesium- is known as the calming mineral and can help calm the nervous system. Magnesium may also helps with sleep quality, anxiety and depression. We all know how important sleep is for our mental well being! Food sources include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, figs, seeds and nuts.
Vitamin D– every cell in our bodies have vitamin D receptors including the area of the brain associated with depression. Have you ever heard of SAD, or Season Affective Disorder? It’s a type of depression associated with the change in seasons, usually winter. There is a thought that it is due to the change in vitamin D levels in our bodies. The sun is needed for vitamin D synthesis in our bodies. Other sources include fatty fish, cod liver oil, and small amounts in egg yolk, liver and cheese. Many people are vitamin D deficient due to the increase use of sunscreen and the limited time people are spending outdoors.
Limit sugar! Sugar has been in the limelight lately with increased consumption linked to obesity and obesity linked diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Let’s now add to that an increased risk for depression and anxiety.
I’m also a big proponent of therapy or alternative types of therapy such as reiki or hypnotherapy. I encourage you to help yourself or a loved one get help. Here are a few resources that might be helpful. It can be as easy as texting or calling a licensed therapist.