We’ve all been there; slammed with meetings and projects at work, with no time to eat. You grab a bag of potato chips from the vending machine or a gummy protein bar from the bottom of your purse. By the time you get home from work, you’re so exhausted from the day that cooking feels like too big of a task, so you order pizza or warm up that leftover Chinese takeout from yesterday. Did you know that what you eat can impact your mental health? In fact, eating the right foods can help your mental health.
We live in a country that is exactly known for its healthy eating habits. Instead, we’re in a society where quick, convenient, and — often — unhealthy options for dinner are everywhere. But did you know that every food we ingest has an effect on our mental health? And scarfing down that fast-food burger is doing nothing to help your overall health, especially if you struggle with issues like anxiety or depression.
Eating right is crucial for brain development. When we eat real, whole foods, those nutrients become fuel for our brains. And when our brains receive nutritious fuel, connections between brain cells get stronger.
Our immune system also benefits from healthy food since it fills your gut with good bacteria. Mental health is naturally easier to maintain when you’re not dealing with a nagging cold or the flu.
Even if those benefits don’t convince you to take a longer trip down the veggie aisle, it’s also important to note what non-nutritious foods can do to your body (and your brain). After all, we are what we eat, right?
Here are a few smart eating habits that will help you lead a healthier and happier life.
What to buy at the grocery market
- Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids—these foods help with inflammation reduction and promote healthy brain function.
- Vitamin D supplements, to help steer away season effectiveness disorder and increase your reserve of serotonin.
- Iron and potassium, which help with stress, anxiety, and sleep.
- Zinc—for brain and nerve development
Foods with these vital nutrients
- Fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel)
- Eggs (including the yolk!)
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
Foods you would find in a Mediterranean diet
- Lean protein
- Olive oil
- Fruits/veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes, and leafy greens
Then there are foods that aren’t as helpful to your brain. While it’s important to maintain balance and not completely cut out certain foods, especially if a restrictive diet would be stressful for you, you should also be mindful of not overdoing it with certain foods. For example, too much caffeine can cause more anxiety, and too much alcohol acts as a depressant to your system.
Foods to limit yourself on:
- Packaged & processed foods (especially with long ingredient lists)
- Fried foods
- Refined sugar
So the next time you find your hand reaching for the ice-cream late night, just think twice and try the below type of foods instead and you’ll see the difference.