Reportedly, the Middle Eastern region suffers from the highest rates of depression and anxiety disorders. As an example, a recent study estimated that 17% of Lebanon’s population suffer from various mental health issues. One step you can take to fight depression and boost your mental health is to add certain foods to your diet.
What you feed your gut impacts the functioning of your brain. Your gut has a nervous system of its own that communicates with your brain via your vagus nerve. This helps to explain why you might experience a stomach ache when you’re nervous.
A few simple changes to your diet can boost your brain function and reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Try these five mood-boosting foods for a rosier outlook on life:
Green leafy vegetables
Fiber-rich green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are among the most nutrient-rich foods. These greens contain inflammation-fighting vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that also boost your immunity and have anti-cancer properties.
Consuming vegetables with healthy fats, like extra virgin olive or avocado oil, can increase the absorption of certain antioxidants even further.
The most important goal for upping your nutrient intake—and for supporting mental health – is to eat a minimum of 3 portions of vegetables, and two servings of fruits, each day.
Walnuts contain amongst the highest proportion of omega 3 fatty acids of all types of nuts. Omega-3 fats help to form the outer-lining of cells and to give them the ability to communicate with each other. This boost the movement and proper function of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Consuming low-fat dairy products such as yogurt and skim milk at least four times per week have been found to reduce the risk of depression. Opt for plain low-fat yogurt and watch out for sweeteners and artificial flavorings that are often added to low-fat yogurt to compensate for the fat that was removed.
This calorie-rich delight can help you boost your mind and mood. The cocoa in the chocolate contains flavanols that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – good for the brain! – and studies have shown that dark chocolate produces the feel-good hormone serotonin. While pure cocoa is best, its taste can be quite bitter, so opt for chocolate that is 70% cocoa or more. The darker the chocolate, the more flavanols.
In 2013, a series of 12 articles by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that green tea can successfully reduce the symptoms of depression. Caffeine and amino acid theanine in green tea help increase mood, focus, and performance.
While incorporating these foods into your daily diet, do bear in mind that it is equally as important to avoid processed food, sugars, and trans fats.
A few simple changes to your diet, especially when combined with quality sleep, can boost your cognitive function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Eat your way to health and well-being!
Nutrition is a key contributor to good mental health, but dietary changes alone won’t be sufficient for everyone. Talk to a therapist or your family doctor if you’re struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder for longer periods of time.