Good foods make good moods
A healthy diet is important to our physical health, but it can improve your mental health too. The right nutrition can improve your mood, increase your concentration and improve your memory. When we’re struggling with depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders, it’s a challenge to maintain good eating habits, but the right foods can actually make us feel better!
Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains provide a steady supply of glucose in the blood and are important to maintain body and brain energy and prevent memory problems, fatigue, irritability and depression. Eat fruits and veggies, especially deeply colored ones, like berries and spinach.
Fiber and whole grains:
Fiber helps you maintain a constant energy supply. Increase fiber in your diet with pears and apples, whole grains, lentils, beans, peas, Brussels sprouts; even popcorn.
Read the label on your bread and crackers. The first ingredient should be oats, whole wheat or whole rye. “Wheat flour” doesn’t mean whole grain. If your bread has the texture of a Twinkie, it’s not whole grain.
Foods rich in folic acid can lift your mood. Find this vitamin in green leafy vegetables (like spinach and turnip greens), legumes (black beans, lentils, peas), citrus fruits and juices, and fortified cereals and grain products. If you’re not eating enough of these foods, talk to your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Protein contains the essential amino acids important for your mood, sleep and energy. It’s especially important at breakfast, when your body is ready to convert it into long-lasting energy. So skip the Danish and have peanut butter on whole wheat toast. Add fruit for a balanced meal. Protein can reduce cravings for foods that cause fatigue and depression.
Good sources include meat, dairy products and eggs, or vegetable proteins combined with beans or whole grains.
Vitamins and minerals:
They’re important for improving memory and intellect. Calcium is important and selenium has been shown to reduce feelings of depression and is essential for healthy immune function. Find it in Brazil nuts, tuna, wheat germ and whole grains, flounder or sole and poultry. If you decide to take selenium as a supplement, be aware that too much selenium can be toxic.
We crave, we crash, we crave again. Both the emotional lows of mood disorders and some psychotropic medications can be blamed for our sugar and carb cravings. Plus, they can lead to weight gain.
When we’re depressed we like the “lift” we get from drinking coffee, but too much can contribute to anxiety, mood swings and nervousness. Caffeine is also found in soft drinks, energy drinks, some teas and chocolate.
Avoid them. “Highly-processed, or highly-refined foods,” explains Pat Kendal, Colorado State University Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, “have had most of the nutrients removed in their preparation.
A highly refined baked good, for example, will likely be made from white flour and provide less than a gram of fiber. A slice of whole grain bread will contain at least three grams.”
A fresh orange is better for you than a glass of juice made from concentrate. Brown rice is healthier than instant rice. The whole food is always more nutritious than a processed one.
Enjoy better eating habits
The simple secret to eating a diet that’s going to improve our mental health is adding healthy foods like fish and poultry, whole grains and fruits and vegetables to our diet, while significantly decreasing sugars and simple carbohydrates.
For a good balance of nutrients, fill your plate with a little less than 2/3 carbs (fruits and complex carbs like beans, whole grains and vegetables) and a little more than 1/3 protein (meat, chicken, fish, tofu.)