The World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”. Oftentimes, we don’t factor in the mental wellness aspect of health. After all, when was the last time you snacked on some fruits in the name of good mental health?
With all that’s going on with the world and the daily stresses of life, here are some foods for healthier thoughts.
Berries: nature’s Skittles. These bite sized juicy fruits are more than meets the eye. On top of being incredibly delicious, berries are extremely rich in antioxidants (polyphenols) which help reduce free radical damage to the body. Not only that, polyphenols have been found to improve cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, and attention span.
If you want the greatest bang-for-your-buck berry, you should look no further than the blueberry: they are considered as one of the most nutrient dense berries. They have also been found to have mood-boosting effects.
The unsung hero of most diets, wholegrains are not just a healthier alternative to refined grains. Whole grains help produce serotonin, a hormone that helps stabilize mood and a sense of well-being. On top of that, serotonin has a calming effect and helps to maintain a steady sleep cycle.
This is great for those who experience anxiety and restless nights. Oatmeal, barley, and quinoa are excellent wholegrains to start munching on.
Fatty fishes are well known to be a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. The standard health claims are that it reduces the risk of cancer and lowers blood pressure. From a mental health point of view, Omega-3 has anti-inflammation properties which have been linked to combating depression (on top of the presence of Vitamin D which also reduces depression rates).
Salmon is the king of fatty fish. However, not all of us have the luxury of having salmon every dinner. In this case, any fatty fish would do (such as tuna, mackerel, and herring). They are, after all, a healthier choice of meat (just make sure you are not having it deep fried everytime!).
Tomatoes have the highest amount of lycopene than any other fruit. Lycopene is one of the most powerful carotenoid antioxidants out there. The health benefits for tomatoes alone deserves its own article! In terms of cognitive benefits, they have been claimed to: delay early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, improve memory, attention, and concentration.
On top of that, tomatoes also contain folic acid which is critical to the development and maintenance of the central nervous system.
Monounsaturated fats, tryptophan, Vitamins B6, C, E, and K, folate, magnesium, potassium, lutein, and 20 other minerals are just some reasons to enjoy that avocado toast. More than just a fad and enjoyable in many formats, avocados are filled to the brim with health benefits.
Vitamin K, folate, and lutein, are responsible for some claims to improving cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, and general brain function. Tryptophan is an α-amino acid which is the precursor to serotonin which, as mentioned before, is amazing for your mental health. Since the human body does synthesize tryptophan, it can only be obtained from our diet. So go ahead and enjoy that guacamole!
Your mom had a point to force you to eat your leafy greens. Rich in folic acid, spinach and most leafy greens are great in combating depression. Furthermore, the Mediterranean diet is rich with leafy greens. There are scientific claims stating that people who follow that diet have led healthier and happier lives.
A healthy gut is a healthy body, and a healthy body is a healthy mind. Active cultures and probiotics help reduce inflammation while also helping out in digestion, reducing stress, and anxiety.
One of the many active cultures living in yogurt, lactobacillus, is even speculated to reverse the effects of depression. Whatever the results may be, it certainly is a much healthier alternative to sugar loaded ice cream!
With all that being said, it is important to seek professional help if you are facing issues regarding your health. As with any food item, it is also important to consume responsibly (don’t just eat only tomatoes for the rest of your life!) and to keep your diet varied. Exercise also plays a pivotal role in ensuring good overall health and studies have shown strong correlation between mental health and an active lifestyle; afterall, it’s not just about input but also your physical output.
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