It can be difficult for people to come to terms with having a problem with their mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other disorders are on the rise. More and more people are turning to pills to help with their problems, and although they can be helpful, specific changes to one’s diet can also help. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t listen to your doctor and not take any medications you’ve been described. But certain foods have been shown to help improve mental health. If you’re not on a strict dietary regimen, it won’t hurt to add more of these foods to your daily diet. Keep reading to learn more about foods that can help improve your mental health.
50. Just Dried Grapes
There is no question that grapes are one of the healthiest things you can put into your body, but carrying bags of grapes around is not practical. They can get squished and turn into a goopy mess, and they can also start to wither a way pretty quickly when you take them out of the refrigerator. Raisins are much easier to snack on, as you can carry a box of them around in your purse. What makes them so great for mental health is that they’re rich with the element boron, an essential trace mineral that many people are deficient in.
The inability to pay attention and retain information is a side effect of both anxiety and depression. Boron has been shown to improve concentration and memory by as much as 10%, so it wouldn’t hurt to keep these in your home as a snack. Or you can start adding them to your other foods, such as yogurt or cookies (though you need to be careful about added sugar, as it can wreak havoc on your physical well-being as well as mental health). Raisins are also helpful with keeping your blood pressure down, and they can also help relieve insomnia, something else that people with anxiety and depression tend to struggle with.
Eggs are one of the richest sources of a chemical called choline, a nutrient well-documented for its ability to ward off anxiety and depression. In fact, pregnant women have been advised to consume extra choline to lower the possibility that their children will have autism and a consortium of mental illnesses. This nutrient also improves memory, so having at least one or two a day is a great idea. But possibly their greatest asset in terms of mental health is their high omega-3 fatty acid level, which boosts brain function. Studies have shown that cultures whose diets include high amounts of omega-3 exhibit far better mental functioning and improved mental health over cultures whose diets rely more on sugary processed foods.
There is no way to understate the importance of omega-3 in promoting mental health; an adequate supply of this fatty acid can be as beneficial as taking antidepressants without the unpleasant side effects. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein, which will help you to feel fuller throughout the day and provide you with energy. Their high cholesterol content may scare some people off. However, naturally occurring cholesterol is far less dangerous than what your body makes when you consume processed foods, such as potato chips and sugary cereal. Scrambled, fried, boiled, poached, find a way to eat eggs so you can enjoy them several times a week.
Not only is broccoli the broom of the stomach – meaning that it’s excellent at keeping your gut clean – but it works wonders at keeping your brain healthy. Broccoli contains a decent amount of lutein, which studies have called “crystallized intelligence.” What it does is that it helps the adult brain use and maintain the skills they’ve learned throughout life. This is a breakthrough, as the adult brain tends to deteriorate over time and lose much of its mental elasticity. Leafy green vegetables, including broccoli (though many people may not think of it as “leafy”), are powerful in the fight against age-related dementia and memory loss and improving overall cognitive function.
In addition to protecting your brain, broccoli helps protect your second brain – your gut. Broccoli is one of many foods considered prebiotics, which helps establish a healthy environment for the probiotics that your stomach needs for overall health and well-being. Many people do not realize that much of their mental health is controlled by the gut. An unhealthy gut is laden down with processed food residue and lacks probiotics (the good bacteria you need to keep the harmful bacteria at bay). Broccoli is one of the best things that you can eat to keep your second brain functioning optimally.
Spinach is a healthy vegetable that is also rich in folate and vitamin B12, both of which have been shown to decrease the risk of dementia. In those people who developed Alzheimer’s disease, scientists ran tests and discovered high levels of homocysteine. These high levels are associated with low intake of B vitamins, so ingesting more of them will help your body fight the onset of this crippling condition. Spinach has several of the B vitamins, and because these vitamins occur naturally in spinach, they are absorbed much better than from supplements. Pregnant women in particular need to consume plenty of spinach because the folate (one of the B vitamins) can help prevent many congenital disabilities.
If you struggle with depression, anxiety, and several other mental health challenges, you probably struggle to hold onto information and focus. The nutrients in spinach help to counteract these problems. What’s more, this vitamin- and mineral-rich superfood has so many healthful compounds that it can naturally boost your mood and make you feel more positive. Isn’t that what antidepressants are supposed to do? Exactly. Spinach is like a natural antidepressant. If you have a hard time with the thought of eating spinach every day, try some recipes for green smoothies. These tasty drinks have so many fruits in them that you may not even taste the spinach at all. Or you can try spinach and artichoke dip (just don’t overdo the chips).
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, which reduces the brain’s deterioration as you get older and helps your skin and skin appendages (hair and nails). They are also high in magnesium, and studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is associated with higher stress and anxiety levels. Boosting your magnesium intake by eating almonds regularly can be a powerful step in turning your mental health around. They’re also rich in protein, which will also help you feel full for much longer. You don’t like almonds, you say? Not a problem. Try almond milk or adding ground-up almonds to some recipes. You could also try almonds that have been seasoned in different ways or as part of a trail mix.
The daily recommended amount of almonds per day is about 2 ounces, making for an easy snack between meals. Just that two ounces provides 40% of the magnesium you need every day, along with the protein, fat (yes, fat; your body does need healthy fats every day) instead of the unhealthy fats found in processed food), and fiber to keep you energized. Try replacing the chips that you usually snack on with a handful of well-seasoned almonds, and swap out cow’s milk for almond milk for your breakfast cereal. You can even find almond-based coffee creamer to use instead of creamer based on cow’s milk.
Turkey is known for being a healthier choice of meat, as it has less fat on it overall than chicken or beef. You may not know that turkey also possesses the amino acid tyrosine, which helps the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that regulates memory, and it is also necessary for boosting your mood. More importantly, turkey contains tryptophan (the ingredient that supposedly makes you sleepy), a necessary building block of serotonin. Many antidepressants work by increasing your ability to produce and absorb serotonin, so they act like turkey. It’s a natural antidepressant.
In addition to these mental health benefits, turkey is much lower in saturated fat than beef and pork. On an environmental level, raising turkeys produces fewer greenhouse gases than cows and pigs, so it is a more ethical meat choice. You may think of turkey as a special dish that you prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you can eat it all year long and enjoy its health benefits more than twice a year. Consider adding slices of turkey to your sandwiches instead to keep that brain active. If you struggle with depression, you may want to consider swapping out chicken for turkey regularly.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which work wonders at fighting cancer. They rid the body of free radicals that are responsible for tumors forming. But blueberries are also great at helping the mind to stay active. These same antioxidants improve short-term memory and the functioning of motor skills. These little berries are also exceptionally high in vitamin C, which helps repair cells. Do you know what harms cells? High levels of anxiety and stress. If you struggle with anxiety, you need lots of blueberries to help repair the damage caused by stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. Blueberries may be just what the doctor ordered to help you stay mentally and physically healthy.
Blueberries aren’t just healthy; they are super fun to eat! If you live in an area where they grow, you can spend a day with friends and loved ones picking blueberries to take home. Blueberry bushes are pretty low-maintenance, so you can even grow them yourself, pending where you live. And who doesn’t like eating blueberry cobbler or blueberry pie? You can eat them by the handful, pop some into yogurt or a smoothie, or add them to a fruit salad. Following the doctor’s orders is super easy with this superfood; eating blueberries every single day will add so much flavor and nutritional value to your diet that you won’t want to stop.
Walnuts are the single best source of nutrients of any nut that there is, hands down. These little nuts look like brains, and guess what? They are super, super good for your brain. A single serving of walnuts contains more than twice the minimum recommendation for omega-3, that little superstar fatty acid that works wonders for both mental and physical health. Walnuts are also high in magnesium, which naturally alleviates anxiety. With omega-3 warding off depression and magnesium fighting off anxiety, you can’t afford to add walnuts to your diet if you are struggling with mental health concerns.
If you aren’t sure about eating nuts, try adding walnut milk to your cereal or coffee. You’ll be able to get the health benefits of walnuts without having to eat them. You can also add them to baked goods, like cookies and sweet breads (but go easy on the sugar, which can derail your mental health) or as a salad topping. If you decide that you like walnuts, there is nothing to stop you from eating them plain. Don’t worry about the shells; you can buy them with the shell already removed. But if you are up for the challenge, get a walnut cracker and enjoy getting the shell off and then eating the rewards of your labor.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to fish, as they all have a distinct flavor. But the ones you should go for are cold-water fish, like tuna, salmon, and mackerel. These kinds of fish have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your joints and your brain. Omega-3 has also been proven in studies to help battle depression, damaging the brain long term. You may be concerned about the high levels of mercury in some of these fish; if you are, go for wild-caught fish that come from the deep ocean. There is much less mercury the further down you go.
Fish are far superior to red meat and poultry for mental and physical health. Red meat causes inflammation and can weigh you down, leading to or exacerbating depression. The inflammation can also further damage cells that have been harmed by the toxic effects of high stress. Scientists have observed that cultures whose diets are steeped in fish have much lower rates of depression and longer lifespans. Make sure to stay away from farmed fish, however. Fish farms are incredibly unhealthy environments for the fish that live there, and unhealthy fish leads to unhealthy fish meat. You are what you eat.
Everyone knows that coffee and black tea can be pretty great at helping you feel energized in the morning. That’s because caffeine is a jolt to your system, speeding up your heart rate and increasing the rest of your body’s normal functions. Coffee and black tea also improve attention and increase problem-solving skills that you’ll need at your job or just around the home taking care of chores. Even one cup a day is enough to get that brain excited for challenges. Scientists have noted that drinking coffee helps prevent age-related memory loss, including the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease.
However, if you struggle with anxiety, you will want to limit the amount of caffeine you drink. It excites your nerves and can heighten the tension that you already experience. And if you already have depression, the caffeine crash can worsen your symptoms. Stick with one cup of coffee in the morning and then a cup of green tea to perk you up in the afternoon. Green tea is powerful in the fight against both anxiety and depression and can even help with other mental health problems, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. With less caffeine, you will have fewer jitters and a less-overwhelming crash, and the high levels of antioxidants just may override those unpleasant side effects altogether.
Fats have a pretty bad reputation, as many people falsely believed that eating fat, well, makes you fat. But studies have consistently shown that sugar, not fat, is the source of excess pounds. There are a lot of good, healthy fats, such as those in avocados. Avocadoes are rich with healthy fats and are a great food to incorporate into your diet if you’re trying to lower your cholesterol. The monounsaturated fat in avocadoes can help trim your waistline while also boosting your mood. They also contain vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body can only absorb it if you eat it with fats.
Avocadoes are also rich in fiber and lutein, the latter of which is ideal for a healthy brain. The B-complex in them helps your body create neurotransmitters, which allow messages to travel between nerve cells. One of the most important neurotransmitters, as far as regulating your mood, is serotonin, and it depends on the B-6 vitamin that is abundant in avocadoes. B vitamins, especially when combined with vitamin E, are also great for reducing stress and inflammation, both of which can lead to poorer outcomes in mental and physical health. Eating at least one fresh avocado a day leads to a vast improvement in problem-solving skills and memory. Smash some up in some guacamole and get to snacking!
Eating foods that are rich in fiber are great for keeping your digestive system regular. Oatmeal is one of them and is also good at slowing down sugar absorption by the gut. That’s a great meal option for people with diabetes. This slow release of sugar into the body can help you concentrate better without giving you a sugar high. Oatmeal also helps the brain produce serotonin, which is the mood-stabilizing hormone. Eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning can help boost your mood while also stabilizing your blood sugar levels, setting you up for a successful day of positivity and productivity.
Add oatmeal to more of your recipes, like baked goods, or simply soak it overnight for some great porridge in the morning. If you haven’t tried steel-cut oats, you may find that even though they require a bit more effort to cook, the effort pays off. Steel-cut oats are much less processed and have a longer cooking time, but they also have a higher nutrient value and will keep you feeling full longer. You can also add your favorite berries or even mash up a banana into a bowl of oatmeal to provide extra flavor and nutrients. And if you need some extra protein, add a spoonful of peanut butter.
Extracted from a ground root, turmeric is intensely flavored and used in Indian cuisine for a very long time. Its vibrant color is what most people think of when it comes to curry. And there’s a good reason Indians add to a lot of their cuisine. It has excellent anti-inflammation properties so that pain and swelling are minimized throughout the body, and it’s known to ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. For those struggling with depression, the compounds inside turmeric have been shown to relieve the symptoms of depression. Further studies need to be done, but turmeric’s regular servings may be just as beneficial as antidepressants for those with mild depression.
There are so many ways to add turmeric to your diet, and with its myriad health benefits, who wouldn’t want to? The easiest way is to start eating curry, which uses turmeric as one of the primary spices. You can also begin to season soups with turmeric and even add it to breakfast smoothies, but be aware that alone, it has a bit of a mustard-like taste. If you want to reap turmeric’s health benefits but are having difficulty adjusting to its flavor, consider taking turmeric supplements. But do not swap out your antidepressants for turmeric supplements, especially not without first consulting a doctor.
When people think of summer, their first thought usually goes to strawberries. This beautiful summer fruit packs a punch when it comes to flavor. But if you knew what strawberries could do for your brain, then you’d be more inclined to eat them all year round. Strawberries, eaten daily, have been shown to delay cognitive aging; think of them as a fountain of youth for your brain, keeping it young no matter how old you are. They contain compounds known to fight inflammation, which may be linked to mood disorders, particularly anxiety and depression. Whether or not they can alleviate the symptoms of depression chemically, their sweet, juicy flavor might do the trick just as well.
In particular, during the winter months, people can start feeling down and get the “winter blues,” leading them to stay inside instead of brave the dark and cold weather. Strawberries contain high levels of vitamin C, which boost the immune system to fight off winter illnesses and make you want to get outside and exercise, no matter how frightful the weather may be. Even in bad weather, getting outdoors will help boost your mood, and if you get plenty of exercise outside, you will start feeling better immediately. Start adding strawberries to your morning oatmeal or afternoon yogurt so that you can begin enjoying their benefits right away.
Beef of any kind is a red meat that’s rich in protein. It’s a great way to build muscle or just keep you feeling full for a lot longer. But beef is also great at boosting your memory, making it easier to recall individual facts or essential pieces of information. It works by increasing the amino acids’ levels in your brain, forcing it to commit to the task at hand. Beef is also the ultimate comfort food for many people, making them feel satisfied and content. Enjoying an occasional hamburger with friends or a steak at a nice restaurant may be helpful.
But be careful about overeating red meat. There are no conclusive studies that show that meat-eaters have better mental health than vegetarians (there have been studies performed by the meat industry, and these studies are flawed). However, eating red meat every day can lead to other health problems, including inflammation that can cause heart disease. Make sure that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are the bulk of every meal that you eat, and enjoy cuts of beef occasionally to reap the benefits that it has to offer. Eating red meat once a week while enjoying lots of fruits, veggies, and fish in the bulk of your diet will improve mental health.
Some people read or watch Harry Potter and, instead of wishing that they could do magic and defeat Lord Voldemort, they could eat chocolate, and it is healthy. But here’s the thing: chocolate is healthy. It is made from cacao, a type of bean similar to coffee, and loaded with super-powerful antioxidants. You may think we’re joking, and we’re just trying to give you an excuse to eat chocolate, but we’re not lying. Chocolate is pretty good at keeping your brain healthy, and not from stress eating. It is loaded with healthful compounds that reduce inflammation and can even heal damaged cells.
Dark chocolate works best because it has less sugar than milk and white. Milk chocolate is so over-processed that the cacao bean’s health benefits are gone, and the high levels of sugar counteract any residual antioxidants that are left behind. While you may not be inclined to eat 90% cacao chocolate, 70% cacao retains many cacao bean properties but with lots of deliciousness. Dark chocolate is rich with flavonoids that boost brain power and reduce your risk for other conditions like Alzheimer’s. Just be sure not to overeat it, as these beneficial properties can be counteracted if you’re putting on too much weight.
Eat your carrots, your parents said, if you want to see better at night. It’s a myth that you actually can, but carrots are pretty good for your eyes because they are rich in vitamin A. But some studies suggest that eating carrots raw may boost mental health, including mood, at least in part because the high nutrient content is so critical for optimal brain functioning. In addition to vitamin A, carrots contain luteolin, which reduces inflammation in the brain and boosts your memory for years. That means fewer headaches and better concentration, both things college students are looking for these days!
If you are not a carrot eater, starting to incorporate them into your diet may seem like a challenge. You may want to start with carrot juice, which sounds icky to those who have never tried it but is very sweet and refreshing. Mixing fresh-squeezed carrot juice with fresh-squeezed orange juice is a nutrient-dense treat that will leave you feeling all-around better. You can also add shredded carrots to salad and smoothies. While carrots are best raw, they make an excellent base for soups, the ultimate comfort food during the dark and cold winter months. There are plenty of ways to start loving carrots and reaping their rewards.
Beets aren’t the most popular vegetable in the world, but they’re great for salads, and beet juice is slowly becoming a popular health drink for those looking to lose weight. Did you know that beets contain any nitrates? Nitrates are also found in beef, which the body uses to build muscle. Nitrates promote blood flow to the brain, which gets the memory jogging and makes you feel less tired throughout the day. In the long term, beet juice may ward off Alzheimer’s and other forms of age-related memory loss. A healthy brain is a happy brain, and drinking a cup of beet juice may also boost your mood.
If the taste of beet juice is too earthy for you (the nitrates in them are the same chemical that gives the air a distinctive smell when rain is about to fall), you could enjoy beets the way that Russians have centuries: in borscht. Borscht is a vegetable soup made with beets as the base; cooking the beets and adding other vegetables removes some of the earthy flavors. Be careful when buying beets; many commercially grown are genetically modified, and with beets, in particular, you should assume that they are genetically modified unless the label says otherwise.
Kimchi, also known as pickled cabbage, can be a spicy addition to any meal as well as an assault on your nostrils. But fermented foods have been shown to have incredible benefits for your gut flora, helping you to digest your food much better. Fermented foods, including kimchi, are high in probiotics necessary for the optimal functioning of your second brain, aka your gut. A high level of probiotics is associated with better mental health, particularly for those struggling with social anxiety. People who eat more fermented foods have been more optimistic, less anxious, and much more comfortable around people they do not know.
This yummy dish also promotes the brain’s health and has even been shown to help fight depression. Kimchi can be an acquired taste, so don’t heap a whole bunch of it onto your plate all at once. If there is a local Korean restaurant, head over there and ask for a small amount of kimchi in addition to other foods that you know you will enjoy. As you develop a taste for kimchi, you will want to eat it more often because it will leave you feeling so satisfied and optimistic. Eat kimchi as one of many fermented foods for the best results.
Chard is one of those strange vegetables that you’re no sure you’ve ever eaten before unless you’re invested in making your own salads. This healthy veggie is packed with betalains, which protect the brain cells against disease. That makes them an excellent component for battling Alzheimer’s and dementia, just to name a few. One serving of Swiss chard contains over 700% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin K and over 200% for vitamin A, as well as not-insignificant amounts of the mood-boosting magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.
The magnesium in Swiss chard can do more than boost your mood; it can help speed up the time that migraines take to heal! The complex of nutrients found in this green leafy vegetable can do wonders for your mental health while improving your overall brain functioning. Consider including this in more of your meals, whether it’s a salad or a green juice you want to take with you on the road. You can also chop it up and add it to soups, casseroles, and other dishes that you might typically prepare to improve their nutritional content.
Lentils are a great addition to any stew or soup if you’re looking for a more satisfying filler. They’re small and easy to eat and add a great flavor to just about anything. They are also incredibly nutrient-dense food that can work wonders for your mental health and overall well-being. Their high fiber content slows the absorption of sugars, a necessity for anyone who wants to improve their mental health. When sugar levels spike, your metabolic processes get thrown off, stress hormones start to climb, and anxiety can hit the roof. Keeping sugar levels stable by consuming plenty of fiber can mitigate all of these effects (as long as you are not eating lots of cookies and ice cream for dessert).
These delicious and secretly healthy foods are also exceptionally rich in folate, which sharpens your brain as you age. Surprisingly, studies have shown that as many as one-third of severely depressed patients are deficient in folate; while this does not mean that folate alleviates depression, getting enough of it certainly won’t make you feel worse. Add a cup of lentils to stew, or make lentil soup to get even more of the nutrients these powerhouses provide. You can season lentil soup with just about anything, so adding turmeric and other spices that will help ward off depression offers another bonus. Keeping your mind active will help too, so enjoy lentils as part of a lifestyle geared towards mental health.
Kale has become quite popular as of late due to how nutritionally rich it is. Most people choose to add it to their green smoothies to enrich their diets while still getting their roughage. This leafy green serves as a top-notch brain booster and slows the cognitive decline that you may experience as you grow older. It is a plant-based source of omega-3 that superstar promotes brain health while fighting off mood disorders, so eating a serving or two every day can work wonders for your mental health. Vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and various other nutrients also counteract the damaging effects of stress on the body.
Some people struggle with kale because of its earthy taste and fibrous texture. Baby kale may be the solution to their woes, as kale that is picked when it is younger is more tender while still having a robust nutrient profile. You can cook kale as it is, or you can add it to soups, omelets, stews, casseroles, and other favorite recipes. You can also eat kale raw in salads or blend it into a green smoothie. If you want kale benefits but can’t handle the bold flavor, mixing it with strawberries, blueberries, and other raw fruits can mask the taste while adding even more nutritional bonus.
Celery is the food of choice if you’re looking to lose weight. That’s because celery has no calories whatsoever, so you’re using up more calories digesting it than there are actually in it. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely devoid of nutritional value. It contains luteolin, which, as we’ve already said, helps reduce inflammation in the brain and reduce the chances of memory problems in the future. The high fiber content provides the prebiotics necessary for optimal gut health, which, as we already said, is necessary for mental health, and the many antioxidants found in celery can prevent cancer.
Use celery as more than just a garnish for your pasta salads or tuna sandwiches. Try the kid’s classic, ants on a log, by eating celery with peanut butter and raisins. You could also hop on the celery juice train and start juicing celery at home. Celery juice has a high nutritional profile, albeit without the high fiber content, which is lost in the juicing process. You can mix celery juice with fresh-squeezed apple juice for a nutritional punch that will pick you up at any time of day and provide the clarity you need for optimal mental health and well-being.
A close relative of nightshade, the tomato is one of the more versatile fruits/vegetables you’ll find on the market. And are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable? Whatever they are, they have a high nutritional profile that can help stabilize your mental health. You can eat tomatoes raw, have tomato juice, turn tomatoes into pasta sauce, or eat them as ketchup. But what makes tomatoes so great is that they also contain lutein, which keeps your brain sharp, no matter how old you are. Additionally, regular consumption of tomatoes is associated with lower levels of depression. There are no causative studies that prove tomatoes reduce depression, but incorporating them into your everyday diet certainly will not hurt.
Tomatoes are great raw, so add them to salads or eat cherry tomatoes on their own as a snack. Cooking tomatoes releases the lutein inside of them so that your body is better able to absorb it, so now may be the time to start making pasta sauce. Making pasta sauce from scratch retains more health benefits, as commercial processing can dramatically lower the nutritional content. But who would have thought that some of your favorite foods, including pizza, could be good for you? Ensure that you don’t load up on processed meats, which will quickly negate the tomatoes’ health benefits.
Flaxseed has been used for hundreds of years, mostly because of its many benefits to the body. It’s also an excellent addition for salads for that extra crunch people are looking for. These little seeds are rich in healthy fats and have been shown to boost memory performance. They also help regulate behavioral function, reducing the chances of mood swings and episodes that people aren’t fond of. One reason is that they are so high in fiber, which keeps your blood sugar stable and prevents mood disruptions associated with too much (or too little) sugar in the blood.
Flaxseeds are also super high in omega-3 fatty acids, which boost brain functioning while reducing depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. They also contain lots of antioxidants and protein, both of which are necessary for optimal physical functioning. Try grinding up flaxseed to use in your favorite baking recipes. They are not a direct replacement for flour, but there are plenty of recipes that show how you can use flaxseed instead of flour to make even your most guilty baked pleasures nutritional powerhouses. You can also add flaxseed to oatmeal and smoothies to enjoy its benefits as you start your day off right. There, don’t you feel better already?
It’s easy to get on board when it comes to participating in your kid’s little league games, much easier than trying to maintain the health of your brain. Well, worry no more. Sunflower seeds, that annoying little staple of baseball games, can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet that promotes mental health and well-being. Sunflower seeds are rich in low-fat oil, so they’re great for your joints without you packing on the pounds. But they’re also rich in vitamin E, making it a potent brain food that will improve your memory steadily over time the more you eat it — no more forgotten games in your future!
Are you still struggling with the thought of eating sunflower seeds, especially the part about spitting out the shells? You can buy sunflower seeds that have already been shelled so that you don’t have to crack them open in your mouth and then spit out the shell. Shelled sunflower seeds are a great addition to salads and can make a satisfyingly crunchy topping for casseroles. You can also enjoy sunflower-seed butter, like peanut butter, and it can be enjoyed on toast or as a sunflower-seed-butter and jelly sandwich. The other parents at the Little League game just might get a little bit jealous as you want this baseball staple without the shells but with all of the health benefits.
Another superfood, people have looked at the goji berry as the miracle cure for all their ailments. To be honest, they’re not that far from the truth, given how packed these berries are with vitamins and minerals. Firstly, they’re full of antioxidants, they improve overall digestion and promote the functioning of the human body. The high magnesium content boosts mood while fighting anxiety, and they also contain high levels of iron, potassium, zinc, and copper. Goji berries have been shown to have a positive effect on brain activity, so start throwing them back as a snack every day.
If you aren’t sure how to start eating goji berries, imagine that they are raisins and can be used. Add them to baking recipes the same way you would use raisins, or even add them to pancake batter to help you start the day off right. (As a side note, be aware that regular pancake recipes made with white flour can derail your mood because of the high sugar content. Go for recipes that have high levels of fiber.) You can also get ground-up goji berries, add the powder to your favorite smoothie recipes or mix regular goji berries into your fruit salad. They also work great in yogurt.
If you’ve never heard of parsley tea, then you’re about to. Those who have been focused on improving the state of their digestive organs have known about parsley is good for the kidneys and liver for a while. Chugging some parsley tea helps to clear out all the toxins and reduces the chances of bladder infections and kidney stones. You don’t need to go to a health-food store to buy parsley tea that has already been neatly packaged into little tea bags. All you need is fresh parsley and hot water. Steep the parsley for a few minutes, and there you go. Parsley tea.
Another great benefit to parsley – and another reason to drink parsley tea – is that ingestion leads to stronger connections between brain cells, keeping them “elastic” to improve memory over time. Parsley can help improve your mood while also removing toxins – including heavy metals – that can weigh you down and keep you from feeling your best. Once you start eating parsley, you will want to add it to everything, and why shouldn’t you? Chop it up as a garnish for soups and salads, mix it in with green smoothies, do whatever you want with this versatile and incredibly healthy herb.
Blackberries aren’t confused with black raspberries; they’re much more substantial and have a different flavor. But just because they’re different doesn’t mean that they’re not beneficial to your health. In addition to having high fiber content, blackberries have flavonoids in them, which reduces cognitive aging. That means that your memory will be better, you’ll be able to think faster, and you’ll be less prone to things like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Blackberries can also alleviate depression, especially when you eat them raw. While blackberries can be pricey if you buy them from the grocery store, they grow wild in abundance in many places.
An outing to pick wild blackberries can provide you with enough of this super-healthy fruit to last for months. Make sure you wear gloves because blackberry bushes can have many thorns. Wash, freeze and thaw out when you are ready to use. Blackberries make a great addition to smoothies, and they can also be used to make an excellent fruit compote that substitutes nicely for sugar-rich jelly and jam. Adding blackberries to yogurt or oatmeal is a great way to reap their nutritional benefits while also getting the beneficial properties in the yogurt and oatmeal, without the added sugar that can derail your diet and your mental health.
Of all the berries you should be adding to your diet, the raspberry is one of them. It is full of flavonoids, which gives your brain the extra boost it needs during the day. The high content of vitamin C found in raspberries can help reduce stress and mitigate its damaging effects on the body. Additionally, the many phytochemicals and antioxidants found in raspberries, such as ellagic acid and anthocyanin, can help prevent cancer and even cause cancer cells to die in a process called apoptosis. Eating a handful of raspberries can help you feel brighter, fresher, and more capable of tackling whatever the day may bring.
If you live in an area where raspberries grow wild, take advantage of the opportunity to pick some yourself. You could also go to a you-pick farm, especially if you are wary of picking wild berries, but you will have to pay for the raspberries you pick, whereas they are free in the wild. If you’re the kind of person who spends long hours working, physically or at a desk, then start including meals or snacks that have more raspberries in them. Try them in a trail mix that includes healthy nuts, like walnuts and dark chocolate. You could also add them to fruit salads, smoothies, and parfaits, or use them to top your morning oatmeal. You’ll start to notice the difference.
It’s not often that you’re going to hear someone raving about cabbage as if it’s the next best thing. It’s been around for a long time, but cooking it can fill your kitchen with an odd smell. Well, get the nose plugs because you’re probably going to want to start having more cabbage in your diet. It’s chock full of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are powerful antioxidants that remove free radicals and reduce the natural cognitive decline that comes with aging. And while cabbage has long had a reputation of being food for poor people, it has anything but a poor nutritional profile.
The nutrients contained in just one serving of cabbage boost your immune system to ward off infections. Stress can lower your immune system’s response, but cabbage can help undo the harm to help you stay healthy. Ulcers can be another unpleasant effect of high-stress levels, and cabbage can even help ulcers heal. The vitamin K and anthocyanins boost brain health and even reverse memory loss while negating some of the symptoms of depression. The B vitamins found in cabbage can boost your energy levels along with your mood, leaving you feeling mentally well enough to get outside and get the exercise that will improve your health all around.
Peanuts are a favorite snack for just about anyone. They’re salty, they keep you feeling full, and it’s hard to feel guilty about how much of them you eat. Filled with essential oil, peanuts have much protein as well as folate. Even just using it like peanut butter will boost your memory powers and quicken the thinking process so that you’re not sitting there, puzzling over a solution for a long time. Peanuts are also perfect for fighting off depression, so have a little packet of them with you to snack on if you’re prone to bouts of it.
And then there is the childhood classic that can make just about anyone feel better: peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can also mix peanut butter into a smoothie with cacao to make a treat that tastes like Reese’s peanut butter cup but with a much steeper nutrient profile. Just be careful if you know someone who is allergic to peanuts because those peanut-based allergic reactions can be deadly. Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly after eating peanuts, especially if you know that you will come into contact with someone you know has a peanut allergy.
Chamomile is so mild that it can be given to babies to help them sleep and ease upset stomachs. A little drop of honey is also a sweet treat for those who want tea to reduce their insomnia. Chamomile tea is also good at keeping the brain primed, easing anxiety, and bringing a general soothing disposition to one’s moods. It contains a substance that battles depression and Alzheimer’s, too, so start slinging back those cups; there are no bad side effects from drinking too much chamomile, other than having consumed so much fluid that you will have to urinate.
If anxiety and depression keep you from sleeping well at night, try drinking a cup of chamomile tea an hour before you go to bed. Chamomile’s relaxing properties will help alleviate your feelings of distress while calming your mind down enough to allow you to rest more easily. Chamomile tea with lavender can be even better, as lavender also contains relaxant properties to help you sleep. The aroma of lavender can be enough to start to quiet down anxious thoughts and help prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Just make sure you don’t drink so much that you will have to get up for frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Many people don’t look forward to the side effects of eating asparagus when they go to the bathroom, but this vegetable is rich in fiber and can be a great side to a well-seasoned meal. Researchers have discovered that asparagus is also ideal for seniors who are starting to lose their cognitive functions. It can slow this process down and even sharpen the mind, making it easier for them to remember things they would have otherwise forgotten. In addition to helping ward off cognitive decline, asparagus has B vitamins that help boost mood and mitigate some of the symptoms of depression.
If you aren’t too keen on asparagus, don’t try to start eating the spears raw. Asparagus makes an excellent base for creamy soups and flavorful addition to stir-fries. One way to begin eating asparagus is to make asparagus fries. Trim off the woody ends of asparagus spears and coat the asparagus in an egg wash and bread crumbs. Bake until tender and enjoy with your favorite dip. You may not even miss potato-based French fries, especially when your mind and body both start feeling better from regular servings of asparagus. Try to eat some at least once a week.
Sweet peppers can be tasty in a salad or roasted and stuffed with seasoned ground beef. Their flavor is also tempting for those who want something sweet but healthy at the same time so that you can dip cut-up bell peppers into hummus, salsa, or yogurt-based dips without any guilt. The colorful vegetable contains luteolin, a chemical for the brain that reduces inflammation. It helps to keep your memory in check, too, so you’ll have fewer forgotten tasks during the day. For those who struggle with attention and focus, sweet bell peppers can alleviate symptoms of ADHD, leading to more productivity because you are better able to stay on task.
These beautiful things are great for a variety of foods, from salads to salsas. You can even use sweet bell peppers in fresh-pressed juices that you make at home! While these peppers are best eaten raw, you can sauté them to make a healthy addition to many other meals. Sautéed peppers are great with fajitas, as a side to complement eggs, and on top of rice. You can also easily add minced bell peppers to pasta recipes to get the extra flavor and nutritional punch that they provide. For the most health benefits, make sure that you eat the seeds high in capsaicin, an immune-boosting, cancer-fighting compound.
Ginkgo trees are known for their beautiful leaves when the seasons turn. They’re also known for Gingko Biloba, which has been used over the decades to improve memory. And those studies are right. Ginkgo has earned the reputation of being the “brain herb,” and it has been used to treat dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain. Ginkgo even reduces some psychiatric disorders symptoms – probably because of how it improves blood flow to the brain — though studies are inconclusive, particularly concerning it being used as a medicine. But if you struggle with mood disorders and other psychiatric problems, talk with your doctor about adding ginkgo to your daily regimen.
Gingko also helps with chronic headaches and migraines, along with heart health and circulation. There are side effects, though; this herb has so many antioxidants that it can start to damage healthy tissue. To prevent adverse side effects, talk with your doctor about adding ginkgo to your diet, and immediately report any possible side effects. You want to make sure that you are not consuming too much – yes, there is too much of a good thing. Gingko comes in supplement form, so it’s pretty easy to take once a day. You can also take it as a tea, though there are very few ways to consume it other than as a supplement.
Olive oil is one of the healthier oils people have started cooking regularly. Just sprinkling it on some salad or flavoring it with spices can be a great way to incorporate more of it into your diet. That’s why more and more people have been finding that their memories are better than they used to be. Olive oil prevents the formation of amyloid-beta plaque along the brain cells’ inner workings, allowing axons and dendrites to remain clear to transport information from neuron to neuron. Olive oil also has vitamin E and the necessary fats for your body to absorb it properly.
Be careful about cooking with olive oil because it has a very low smoke point and can start to burn at a temperature lower than many other oils. You are best off adding it to dishes that are already prepared rather than cooking with it, so sprinkle it on fresh salads and use it with herbs as a dip for fresh-baked bread. Its flavor complements hummus exceptionally well – in the Middle East, people have long eaten hummus with olive oil – add a spoonful to hummus before digging in. You will find that olive oil makes a great compliment to a healthy diet
Green tea can be the slightly bitter cousin of black tea, but it’s a great way to energize your body without getting the jitters from black tea. Green tea also has incredible benefits for the brain, reducing cognitive impairment. There’s a reason there are decreased rates of dementia in areas like Japan and China compared to European countries, and some of those reasons have to do with how much green tea is being sipped daily. EGCG is the special component in green tea that makes it so incredibly healthy, and EGCG naturally lowers anxiety while boosting mood. This makes green tea a must-have for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, and any other mood disorders.
Green tea also does have a fair amount of caffeine, far less than coffee, in any case. The modest amount of caffeine can have an immediate mood-boosting effect, and in combination with EGCG, that improved mood can last longer. Just be careful that you are not consuming green tea too late in the day, as the caffeine may prevent you from sleeping. Regular consumption of green tea can be just as effective as antidepressants for people who struggle with mild depression and may not need medication. But of course, you need to talk to your doctor before using any kind of food as a replacement for medication and closely follow his or her advice.
You may be tempted to go out and start plucking all those weeds out of your yard when you hear what dandelion greens can do for you. While you may think of them as a nuisance in your yard, dandelion greens can be used in salads and contain just as much lutein as spinach or kale. Lutein is proven to be a memory booster and will keep your brain sharp over the years. Dandelions have long been used in traditional medicine, particularly by the Chinese and Native Americans, because of how well they can keep the liver clean and relieve an upset stomach.
If you struggle with low appetite due to depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders, dandelions can help stimulate your appetite so that you can eat better. Dandelions have many nutrients, including zinc, potassium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and many in the B complex. Combined, all of these nutrients can help you feel mentally sharper and emotionally stronger. If the thought of chomping on dandelions is a bit much for you, try making dandelion tea. Just clean the dandelions off and then steep them in hot water. Their nutrients will leach out, and you can drink them up. Now you have an even better reason to go outside and get some yard work done.
Water is one of the most critical parts of your diet that most people ignore. They resort to fizzy drinks or alcohol with their meals, so they’re already jeopardizing their health. Alcohol can help people feel relaxed, and yes, wine does have many health properties. However, the long-term effects of excessive alcohol use more than outweigh any benefits, and the crash caused by alcohol can cause further anxiety, depression, and many other problems. Fizzy drinks are full of sugar, which just may be the most addictive substance on the planet and the source of many of our physical and mental health problems.
Staying hydrated has been shown to improve cognitive function, as it balances out the body’s pH, including the fluids surrounding the brain. It also helps cleanse your body of the toxins that can build up and weigh you down, leading to poorer mental and physical outcomes. Have a glass of slightly cold water will also wake you up in the mornings, as it’s a shock to your system. You will find that a glass of water helps you feel refreshed much better than a fizzy drink. Over time, replacing harmful beverages with water will make you feel all-around better, and your mind and body will both be performing optimally.
Chia seeds are one of the single healthiest foods on the planet. Just one serving provides iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. The protein helps rebuild cells that have been damaged due to the harmful effects of stress, and the iron makes sure that necessary nutrients get to your cells. Without iron to act as an internal messenger service, you will become lethargic and chronically depressed because the lack of nutrients in your cells will make you functionally malnourished. The omega-3 found in chia seeds is the absolute superstar of mental health because of how much this fatty acid boosts brain activity and helps regulate your mood.
The absorbent property of chia seeds is associated with their ability to help clean out your gut, which can become loaded down with gunk that prevents it from functioning optimally. Moreover, let’s face it, the absorbency is also really fun! Adding chia seeds to juice and letting it sit overnight causes the chia seeds to expand and develop an enjoyable texture. You can also add them to oatmeal, smoothies, fruit salads, and even make pudding out of them! Instead of using cornstarch, soak the chia seeds in the milk you are using until they expand. Heat up on low, stirring constantly, and add in your favorite pudding ingredients – chocolate, vanilla, and more.
Pumpkins are the quintessential marker of the autumn season, and who doesn’t love the abundance of pumpkin-based foods that tell us that the weather is turning? Pumpkin-spice lattes are a staple for many people, and Thanksgiving is not the same without pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is also a nutritional powerhouse that is very high in beta-carotene, which helps to protect your cells while also boosting your mood. Why only eat it during the fall when you can enjoy its nutritional benefits all year long? Use pumpkin to make smoothies, soups, and yes, even pumpkin pie at any time of the year so that you can continue reaping the health benefits of this fruit.
Furthermore, yes, pumpkin technically is a fruit, a type of squash. On that note, adding in lots of different kinds of squash, including zucchini and summer squash, to your diet can help your mental health. When the time of year for you to carve a pumpkin comes, there is the bonus of the pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are high in healthy, brain-boosting fats, as well as zinc and selenium. Selenium is an essential nutrient for regulating mental health, and many people who struggle with mood disorders are deficient. You may want to start carving pumpkins more than once a year, and because an uncarved pumpkin can stay fresh for a long time, why shouldn’t you?
Some people insist that coconut oil is an integral part of a healthy diet. Even though it is loaded with saturated fats – what some nutritionists consider unhealthy fats – the particular structure of the saturated fats in coconut oil boosts brain health, particularly concerning memory. People at risk of dementia are often encouraged to consume coconut oil. However, the jury is still out on just how healthy coconut oil is, as its effect on the arteries may counteract the brain’s beneficial effects. Still, there are other ways to enjoy coconuts other than the oil that is notoriously high in saturated fat.
Coconut milk is becoming more and more popular as people seek dairy alternatives, which may be less healthy than many of us have been led to believe. Coconut milk goes well in coffee and can be the base for some super-healthy breakfast smoothies. It maintains the healthy nutrient profile of coconuts without the high level of saturated fat that may do as much harm as good. Drinking coconut milk instead of dairy milk can help you feel more alert and focused, and you can also swap out dairy-based yogurt for coconut yogurt. Coconut yogurt has the probiotics of dairy yogurt but is often less processed.
Like pumpkin, sweet potatoes are associated with fall and are also very high in beta carotene. Adequate levels of beta carotene are necessary for heart, skin, and mood health. Beta-carotene helps cells heal from the harmful effects of oxidative stress. What is that? Oxidative stress is associated with anxiety. Sweet potatoes can help improve your brain’s connections that boost your mood. More serious psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, can also cause oxidative stress. People who deal with these issues should add sweet potatoes to their regular diets. A poor diet is often associated with poor mental health. However, an improved diet can have far-reaching effects on overall functioning.
Many people only eat sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, there are so many ways to enjoy this nutrient-rich food. How can you enjoy potatoes and improve mental health? Make sweet potatoes into fries. These are even tastier than French fries made from white potatoes. Moreover, the higher levels of fiber mean that the sugars in them are absorbed more slowly than the sugars found in regular fries. Sweet potatoes are also great in soups and stir-fries. Use them in potato recipes and reap the healthful benefits of sweet potatoes.
If you think that oranges are tasty, then we have some good news for you: they are also very beneficial in promoting mental health. It is a commonly known fact that oranges are high in vitamin C and that a glass of orange juice in the morning can help boost your immune system for the day. However, that glass of orange juice contains a lot of sugar, probably more sugar than a can of soda. If you want to reap the benefits of oranges concerning mental health, eat them whole. Mandarin oranges are very easy to peel and can make a great pick-me-up snack for the middle of the afternoon.
When you eat oranges whole, you preserve the fiber inside them, which keeps all of the sugar in them from being absorbed quickly. As bad as sugar is for your mental health, your brain needs some sugar level to function correctly. Otherwise, your thinking can start to get foggy, and you will be unable to focus well. You don’t need added sugar, though; the sugar naturally occurring in fruits like oranges is more than sufficient for meeting your brain’s sugar needs. Whole oranges allow this sugar to flow steadily into your brain so that it functions as brain food, instead of overwhelming your entire body with so much sugar all at once that you inevitably crash.
It would be best if you had plenty of protein for your body to be functioning optimally. We all know that exercise is good for you, especially for improving your mental health, but movement breaks down muscles. Protein is necessary for rebuilding that muscle so that you can recover quickly. However, many people get far too much protein because of how much meat they eat. While some meat can be beneficial, too much can lead to inflammation, depression, and overall poorer health. Cultures whose diets are high in meat tend to experience shorter life expectancies than those whose diets are high in fruits and vegetables.
Beans are a great way to ensure that you are getting the protein that your body needs. Furthermore, you can do so without overwhelming it with too much protein. Just as importantly, beans are high in selenium. That is vital for fighting off depression and ensuring that the brain is functioning correctly. Beans also have a lot of fiber; this is necessary for a healthy gut and making sure that your body does not become overwhelmed with high sugar levels. Even though beans have many carbohydrates, they have enough fiber that those carbs will be absorbed gradually. Thus, you should be able to enjoy a meal without it causing you to crash.
We know that sunlight is not food. However, it is the best source for one of the most essential vitamins, vitamin D. Moreover, Vitamin D is necessary for just about everything that your body does. It helps with things from absorbing the calcium needed for healthy bones to boosting the connections in your brain that improve focus, clarity, and mood. Spending a day outside in the sun is an excellent way of ensuring that you get enough vitamin D while also getting exercise and fresh air with people you love. Moreover, what could be better for improving mental health than spending time outside with friends and family?
There is such a thing as too much sunlight. Furthermore, many people are prone to getting sunburns if they spend too much time outside. Twenty minutes a day is all that you need to get enough vitamin D for optimal mental and physical well-being. If you live in an area that does not get enough sunlight, you could take vitamin D supplements, but the quality of vitamin D will be much lower than sunlight. However, mushrooms grown in the sunlight can absorb vitamin D, so eating these mushrooms can make up for the deficiency of not getting enough sunlight. Make sure that they are labeled as having vitamin D.
The absolute worst thing that you can put into your mouth, especially if you are trying to get your mental health on track, is sugar. Sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. It is more addictive than many street drugs that can cause you to go to prison. Moreover, sugar is also the primary reason for many health problems that plague our country, including mental health problems. A high sugar intake is not just associated with depression and anxiety; it causes depression and anxiety. Furthermore, since sugar is added to just about everything you can order at a restaurant or buy at a supermarket, avoiding it is challenging.
Yes, your brain needs some sugar to function, but that sugar can easily be obtained from the fruit. Added sugar is something that your body does not need. You also need to be careful of sugar substitutes, which can be just as bad as, if not worse than, sugar itself. Don’t fool yourself into thinking those diet sodas are better than sugary sodas. Cut out sodas altogether and drink green tea and smoothies instead. Replace sugary foods with healthy alternatives, and you will find that your mental and physical health are both dramatically improved. You will experience more wellness and be all-around happier.
What we eat does make a massive difference in how we feel, both mentally and physically. Eating foods that benefit mental health can be a game-changer. That is especially true for people who struggle with focus and other problems that keep them from living their best lives. Do you notice what was not on this list? Processed foods. Many companies now advertise processed foods that they claim are beneficial for mental health. However, they are not saying that the chemicals in these foods can easily outweigh any benefits. Plus, these so-called “healthy” processed foods tend to be loaded in sugar, which is an absolute no-no if you want to get your mental health on track.
In addition to the “healthy” processed foods, do your best to reduce the other junk. Say goodbye to cookies, chips, candies, and ready-made meals. You don’t have to eliminate them, but start eating cut-up sweet bell peppers with dip instead of chips. You will find that you start feeling better. Why? You are no longer eating garbage and are instead giving your mind and body what they need. Processed foods weigh you down with unnecessary chemicals and toxins. Natural, whole foods, especially those derived from plants, give you energy, boost your mood, and increase your focus.
Okay, so this last item is not a food at all. However, getting exercise every day is the single best thing that you can do to improve your mental health. Exercise burns off the stress hormones that can accumulate quickly when anxiety sets in and even start to repair the damage that these hormones caused. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are the “feel-good” hormones that naturally elevate your mood. Whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mood disorder, getting at least half an hour of exercise every day can alleviate your symptoms and make you feel a lot better. Over time, you will notice the benefits of exercise. You will find that you are more awake, alert, energetic, and optimistic.
Having a mood disorder can cause you not to want to leave your house. Sometimes, you might not want to get out of bed. Thus, there is a struggle involved in exercising your lifestyle. You can start by exercising inside, maybe by dancing or following along to an exercise video. Getting a friend to exercise with you can be extremely rewarding. It might be something you even look forward to. If you like being outside, go for a hike or a swim. You can spend a day out on the lake. Sunlight plus exercise will equal a happier, healthier you.