One of the most powerful methods of ensuring one’s mental health is good is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Proper nutrition has been shown to be effective in managing and preventing or diminishing the symptoms of a number of different mental health disorders including schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The majority of people who report good mental health eat fresh fruit daily or fresh vegetables daily while those who report poor mental health are more likely to eat processed foods, salty snacks and sweets (Feeding Minds: The impact of food on mental health).
When it comes to trying to get optimal nutrition through a balanced diet it is important to take a few factors into account.
Eat three meals a day: If one skips a meal, especially breakfast, than this can lead to lower blood sugar levels. In turn, this leads to irritability, poor mood and exhaustion. If a person still feels that they are hungry throughout the day, then they should be sure to have a healthy snack between meals. However, portion control will be important so that he or she does not spoil their appetite.
Make sure to get enough protein: It is also important for an individual to be sure a daily diet also has a sufficient amount of protein. Protein contains the amino acid, tryptophan, which has been shown to influence mood which is present in foods such as turkey, milk, fish, eggs and beans. Such foods may help with mood elevation for patients who suffer from depression.
Find some fish: Fish contain omega-3 and omega-6 oils which, research has found, reduces signs of depression in sufferers (Daniells, 2007). Try to incorporate two to four servings of fish into meals per week or, if unable to find a good source for fish, look into taking an omega-3 supplement.
Make sure to get plenty of fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids can prevent poor concentration, irritability and lowered mental functioning. Be careful when drinking coffee or other fluids with caffeine too as drinking excessive amounts of caffeine can increase the risk for depression, anxiety, insomnia and elevated blood pressure.
Use alcohol in moderation: Alcohol may have a negative effect on a person’s mental and physical health. Drinking heavily may lead one to vitamin deficiencies, as well as poor mood and aggressiveness. If a person develops an addiction to alcohol they also put themselves at a higher risk for more serious health problems.
Include whole grains: While whole grains may have sugar, they are not likely to disrupt mood because these sugars are absorbed more slowly. Whole grains also have the nutritional benefits of containing thiamin, which has been shown to regulate mood. In addition, they also often contain folate and zinc, which have been shown to alleviate depression (Whole Grains Council, 2014).
Be aware that moderation is key and eating such healthy foods will only have true benefits if they are incorporated into a balanced diet.
Along with making sure to include healthy foods into a balanced diets, the individual should also be aware of what minerals they can use to maintain good mental health.
Studies have shown that increased levels of magnesium, often found in nuts and vegetables, may contribute to a healthy diet (Calm Clinic). Magnesium plays a role in more than 300 different chemical reactions in the body and many studies have shown that a deficiency in magnesium contributes to several mental health problems including anxiety. Also, those who receive sufficient levels of magnesium may recover more readily from depression.
It is also helpful to incorporate iron into one’s diet, which is often found in red meat and fish. If the individual also ingests vitamin C at the same time, such as by eating an orange, this will increase the rate of absorption. Lack of iron may cause a person to develop anemia. This in turn may lead one to poor mental capabilities and exhaustion.
Copper is found in foods such as whole grains and seafood and has been shown to have a strong effect on brain functioning. Without copper, one’s immune system can be severely compromised, along with decreasing levels of neurotransmitters which can negatively affect chemical receptors in the brain.
Lastly zinc should be part of a healthy diet as well. It is often found in vegetables, eggs, red meat and more. This mineral helps prevent cell damage from occurring. Without it, a person’s vision, smell and taste may be affected and they may be increasingly exhausted and irritabile. By incorporating zinc and other important minerals into a diet, an individual can do their part to help safeguard his or her physical, as well as mental, wellness.
Sovereign Health utilizes a holistic approach to mental health wellness that incorporates concentrated, vitamin-rich rehabilitation. To learn more about our programs for mental health disorders, addiction and co-occurring conditions, you can call 866-754-3385 to speak to a member of our team.
Written by Ryan McMaster,Sovereign Health Group Writer