Maintaining a balanced diet is as essential to mental health as it is for physical health. Our mood and brain functioning are both affected by chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are affected by what we consume. Of course, the brain is much too complex, and eating a specific food will not immediately solve a specific problem. However, following certain guidelines can result in long-term benefits, boosting mood, memory, and alertness. The importance of a proper mental health diet cannot be overstated.
Eat Carbohydrates For a Calming Effect
Carbohydrates are useful because they release insulin into the blood. Insulin clears out all amino acids except tryptophan. When tryptophan reaches the brain, it is converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can produce effects such as pain reduction, calmness, and decreased appetite. In large quantities, tryptophan can induce sleepiness.
A good rule of thumb for any diet is to opt for complex, nutritious foods. For carbohydrates, choose whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal over simple starches such as white rice and sugar.
Protein Boosts Alertness and Concentration
Foods rich in protein such as fish and poultry provide an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine will increase the level of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, three neurotransmitters that have been linked to alertness. Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean beef, soy products, low fat cheese, and yogurt.
Get Enough Vitamin D to Ward Off Depression
Vitamin D levels can get low in the wintertime or in frequently overcast locations. A deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to depression and it is also thought to be the cause behind conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Vitamin D occurs naturally in only a few foods, namely fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, cod) and fish liver oil. However, there are foods available that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as most milk and some orange juice.
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B Vitamins Will Improve Your Mood
A deficiency in B vitamins has also been linked to higher levels of depression. Women should make sure to get enough vitamin B12. In men, it is especially important to get enough folate (also known as folic acid). Foods high in folate include legumes, nuts, fruits, and dark green vegetables. A cup of cooked spinach or orange juice will satisfy most daily folate needs. Vitamin B12 can be found in lean, low fat animal products. This includes fish and low fat dairy.
Selenium And Omega 3 Reduce Irritability
Finally, deficiencies in selenium and omega-3 fatty acids are also major factors when it comes to mood issues such as depression and irritability. Selenium can be found in beans, legumes, low fat dairy products, lean meats, and nuts and seeds. Good sources include brazil nuts, seafood, whole grains, and sunflower seeds.
Good avenues for obtaining Omega-3 EFA’s are fish containing a higher percentage of fat, including anchovies, salmon, and the easily accessible tuna. Alpha linolenic acid is abundant in walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans, and in many vegetables.
Eat Eggs to Improve Memory
Eggs are a great source for choline, a B complex vitamin. Choline is found in many high cholesterol foods such as eggs and liver. It is precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that has been linked to memory. Short-term memory, or working memory, and long-term memory are essential to being a functioning and contributing member of society. And enhanced memory and ability to balance multiple variables increases your efficacy in every area of life.
As continue about our daily lives, concerned with our physical bodies in regards to strength, tone, and cardiovascular fitness, let us not forget our mental health. Introducing and maintaining a well-balanced diet can benefit all of these areas of health and is as good as taking a medication. If it is difficult to obtain certain food items at a reasonable cost where you live, such as fish, the option to take a supplement is always available and is recommended.
Exercise, and as you do, eat right. Not only will you look healthy, but you will feel healthy, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
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