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Superfoods For Mental Health

 

Mental health is just as important as physical health, though many people choose to ignore it. However, if you have a lot of stress from your job or you suffer from panic attacks, then you need to think of better ways to manage these mental health conditions.

This report is going to go over superfoods to add to your diet that help with your mental health. It talks about three common mental health conditions specifically, including anxiety, depression, and stress. However, many of these superfoods help with other mental health illnesses as well.

Anxiety

The first category of mental illness that superfoods can be ideal for is anxiety. Many doctors will recommend changing your diet if you suffer from anxiety, whether it is general worry or an actual anxiety disorder. With anxiety, you typically have a general feeling of worry and unease, often not brought on by anything.

There are different anxiety disorders you may suffer from, like generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, or a phobia like agoraphobia. Regardless of what it is, your diet could be helping or hurting you. Here are some superfoods that have been known to help with anxiety.

Dark Chocolate

It is not unusual that dark chocolate would be recommended as a superfood for anxiety. It is considered a superfood because it is filled with lots of essential nutrients, primarily with the antioxidants it has. Dark chocolate helps with anxiety thanks to the nutrients that help to reduce cortisol in the body. This is a stress hormone that leads to stress and anxiety symptoms, so a little dark chocolate is great for you.

However, before you grab any dark chocolate off the shelf, make sure it doesn’t have added milk or sugar. It should be fairly traded and organic, without a lot of additives. The sugar can actually make your anxiety worse, so you want to avoid it as much as possible. Dark chocolate with cacao of 60% or higher is usually recommended.

Asparagus

One of the best vegetables to have when you suffer from anxiety is asparagus. This green vegetable has a mild taste so that it tastes good with a lot of different meats and veggies. It is rich in folic acid and B vitamins, making it a superfood that is good for general health. The folic acid, also called folate, is what is going to help with anxiety. Folic acid has been linked to lower levels of anxiety and reducing panic attacks in people who suffer from panic disorder.

Seaweed

Seaweed is a really important superfood, so try to add it to your diet if you can. Seaweed contains a good amount of magnesium, which can help reduce your anxiety and stress symptoms. Seaweed has many other nutrients as well, similar to those found in whole grains. It is low in fat and helps with general wellness, including mental illness. It is also a really good option if you are sensitive to gluten.

Acai Berries

If you struggle with anxiety, you should definitely give acai berries a try. These are one of the most popular superfoods for everyone, from those trying to lose weight to people who have stress, anxiety, or depression. Acai berries are often found in packets which have the acai berries to add to smoothies, juice, and other recipes.

A really good option is to make yourself a smoothie bowl that includes acai berries, fruits, a cream base like yogurt or milk, and veggies if you want. These are fun, delicious smoothies that are a little thicker and tend to include more superfood ingredients.

Almonds

The last superfoods to try if you have anxiety is almonds. While many nuts have a lot of nutrients and fit in the superfood category, almonds specifically are good for anxiety and panic attacks. This is due to the zinc in almonds, which is good for balancing your moods. Many people have anxiety as a result of heightened stress, so when you can manage your stress with more zinc in your diet, it might reduce your triggers and help with your anxiety.

Almonds are also a good source of iron and various other healthy fats, which everyone should have more of. The iron in almonds further help with lack of energy and brain fatigue, both of which can also trigger your anxiety or panic attacks.

Depression

The next mental health illness we want to discuss is depression. This is also a mental health condition where doctors and therapists often recommend changing your diet because of the large impact it can have on you.

Approximately 16 million people in the United States alone have depression, but that doesn’t even include the estimated 350 million people worldwide suffering from it, according to the World Health Organization. This is a massive amount of people struggling with the feelings of hopelessness, sorrow, and sadness on a regular basis, often with no triggers or warning signs.

There are a lot of people out there with depression, but changing your diet can be the first start to helping manage it. First of all, you want to avoid certain things that can make your depression worse, including high amounts of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Next, try to add more of the following superfoods to your diet.

Maca Powder

The first superfood you can try for your depression is maca powder, which comes from the maca root. This is a root that grows mostly in Peru, but you can get the powdered or dried forms of it internationally. Maca powder is very nutritious, and often on many superfoods lists because of how many different vitamins and minerals it contains.

Maca is a type of adaptogen, so it is going to help reduce your stress levels. Since stress is often linked to both depression and anxiety, this makes it an excellent superfood to start with. It will also help with energy and stamina, both of which decline greatly during depressive episodes. Other nutrients that maca powder has are potassium, magnesium, calcium, many B vitamins, vitamins C and E, and iron. It also has some selenium and zinc in it for good measure.

Oranges

Citrus fruits in general are often at the top of superfoods lists, including lemons, oranges, and grapefruits. With oranges, you are also getting a fruit that has health benefits for people with depression and other mental health conditions.

Oranges have a high amount of vitamin C and antioxidants, which provide natural anti-depressant qualities when you eat enough of them. There are also complex sugars (the good kind of sugar), in addition to folate and various other vitamins and minerals. The vitamin C is the important nutrient in oranges, because it can help boost your serotonin and dopamine levels, which help people who suffer from depression.

Coconut

Just about every form of coconut can be beneficial if you have depression. This includes everything from drinking coconut milk or water, to cooking with coconut oil or even coconut butter. Coconut is a type of fruit that grows in tropical areas. People use all different parts of the coconut to make oil, water, or milk, since they all contain a lot of nutrients.

Coconuts have plenty of potassium, lots of electrolytes, and plenty of protein and fiber. Many people with depression struggle with side effects that are more physical, affecting their skin and nervous system. The nutrients in coconut meat can be very helpful for these individuals. Overall, it is great for general wellness and mental health disorders like depression.

Lentils

If you are looking for a superfood to help with depression that also has a lot of fiber and protein, lentils are a good option for you. Lentils are a superfood thanks to the large amount of nutrients combined, including iron, folate, fiber, manganese, and protein. The phosphorous and manganese helps to give your mood a natural boost and give you more energy, both of which are affected by depression.

You can also get higher levels of serotonin and dopamine in your system form many of the nutrients found in lentils. Lentils are easy to add to your meals, whether you are making soup or chili, or using them as a side dish.

Spirulina

The last superfood on the list for depression is spirulina. This is one of the more unique and lesser known superfoods on the list. Spirulina is a type of blue green algae. It is made up almost completely of protein, nearly three times more that poultry or fish. Spirulina also has no cholesterol, but lots of nutrients like omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, beta carotene, iron, and antioxidants.

When you have depression, you are often lacking in both strength and energy. It zaps nearly everything you have, making it hard just to get out of bed. Foods like spirulina are perfect when this is one of your biggest side effects of depression.

Stress

It’s hard talking about mental health without also discussing stress. This is one of the most common mental health issues people face, affecting people of all different ages and occupations. Emotional and mental stress doesn’t just affect you mentally, but physically as well. You might have low energy, mood swings, lack of motivation, and many other negative side effects just because of your stress.

There are a lot of ways to start reducing your stress, but looking at your diet is a common one. There are certain superfoods that are good for stress relief, just like when you are eating for depression or anxiety. Here are some superfoods to add to your diet when you struggle with a lot of stress:

Beets

First up are the beets, which might not be your favorite vegetable. However, give them a chance because they are good for you, an excellent superfood with tons of nutrients, and can be very flavorful when made the right way. These bright pinkish-purple vegetables can be added to salads, cooked on the side of your main protein source, or added to a casserole of your choosing.

Beets contain a lot of folate, over 30 percent of your daily minimum is just one cup of the bright vegetable. Lack of folate can be linked to stress, including confusion, insomnia, and overall mental fatigue. So what you may need is more beets in your life. These also contain a lot of other excellent vitamins and minerals that help with stress, diabetes, cholesterol, and arthritis.

Mushrooms

Another vegetable on the list of superfoods for mental health, particularly stress, is mushrooms. These are super low in fat and carbs, so they work great with a lot of different diets. Mushrooms have a high amount of selenium, known to help with fatigue, stress, and anxiety. They also have vitamin D, which is actually rare for plant sources to have it naturally. With enough vitamin D, you will be able to get help for mood disturbances, depression, and seasonal affective disorder, all of which can be related to your stress levels.

It is super easy to add mushrooms to your diet. Top your salads, replace burger patties with Portobello mushrooms, add them to an omelet with ham and cheese, or make yourself some soup, chili, or pasta sauce with mushrooms.

Milk

Diary is also considered a superfood, especially if you are dealing with stress. Most of the nutrients found in milk can help with your stress levels, including vitamin D, A, and calcium. Milk also has good antioxidants and protein, which are also important for making you feel more relaxed. These nutrients will reduce free radicals as they are often linked to feeling stressed out.

You might want to try skim or reduced fat milk, but full-fat dairy products are also fine. Have some oatmeal or cereal with your milk, have a glass with your meals, or make fruit smoothies with milk and superfood fruits and vegetables.

Turkey

Lean protein can also be a good superfood when you have a lot of stress in your life. Turkey breast is linked to happiness and relaxation thanks to the amino acid tryptophan. This is the same amino acid linking eating turkey at Thanksgiving to wanting to take a nap afterward. This is because turkey can help to relax your mind and body, which is a good thing when you have a lot of stress.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat turkey, not to worry! There are plenty of meatless options that also contain tryptophan, including lentils, beans, oats, tofu, nuts, and seeds. If you are a pescatarian, you can also enjoy eggs and fish for the amino acid that will relax you.

Green Tea

The last superfood on the last for stress and mental health is green tea. Green tea is extremely good for you, which is why it is often recommended for other health benefits as well. Green tea helps to boost your mood, relax you, and make you healthier in general. Try to drink more green tea and you will start feeling much better.

The dramatic role of nutrition in mental health

Must watch: I highly recommend you watch this for your family’s sake!

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. In this critically important talk, clinical psychologist Julia Rucklidge explores a range of scientific research, including her own, showing the significant role played by nutrition in mental health or illness.