The food we eat biologically constitutes who we are. Then, it might be of no surprise that the food we eat also plays a significant role in our mental health. The amount of research and studies in this subject has given rise to an entirely new medical science wing called nutritional psychiatry. Apart from the mounting evidence that proves the correlation between the food and our mental health, some nutrients also provide us with the essential nutrients to fight off diseases and build new cells.
Given below are some pointers on nutritional superfoods to provide all the mind-juice you need. Read on to find out more!
1. Yogurt – The unassuming accompaniment in our meals and desserts has proven to be a significant player in our mental well-being. A study conducted at the University of Virginia suggests that the bacteria found in yogurt, lactobacillus, is directly related to mental health. This proves that the gut microbiome plays a major role in psychiatric disorders, such as depression. Yogurt is also a superfood because of its probiotic content. Make sure you stack up some yummy yogurt on your next shopping trip!
2. Green leaves – Is your mom piling your plate with different kinds of spinach and broccoli? Apart from the obvious benefits for the rest of the body, green leafy vegetables have also been recognized as excellent brain food. A study conducted by the Rush University of Chicago has proven that the cognitive decline in those who had about 1.3 servings of green leaves every day was significantly lower than those who did not include them regularly. Besides, they are rich in nutrients such as lutein, vitamin K, nitrate, folate, alpha-tocopherol, kaempferol, and beta-carotene, which are directly associated with cognitive health.
3. Walnuts – They look like the brain, and your brain likes them too! Considered a great snacking option, the little brainy looking nut means business. It is packed with antioxidants that protect us from oxidation, and nutrients that help build new neurons. They have the highest omega-three fatty acid contents among nuts. It is an excellent source of nutrition for your overall mental health, memory, prevention of dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
4. Whole grains – Whole grains (not refined flours) are a great source of mind food. Grains take up a massive chunk of all our favorite comfort foods. But make sure you switch to the wholegrain versions of them to reap all the benefits it gives for your body and mind. Whole grains are rich in tryptophan, required for the secretion of serotonin – the happy hormone, and melatonin – the sleep cycle hormone. What better way to stay satisfied than with a happy mood and peaceful regular sleep?
5. Beans – The humble beans are considered excellent food for your brain. They are rich in antioxidants and fiber. Remember to include varieties like chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans into your diet for the right doses of nutrients like thiamin (essential for memory) and folates (prevents depression).
6. Fatty fish – Fishes like sardines, trouts, and salmon are the top-listers in terms of omega-three fatty acid content. Omega-three fatty acids make up almost half of the kind of good fat in your brain. Besides warding off cognitive decline and Alzheimers, they are used for building brain and nerve cells, which promote memory and learning. Make sure you include these in your diet for your mental well-being.
7. Coffee – Yes, our favorite beverage has made it to the list. It is no secret that consuming coffee with caffeine increases alertness, improves mood, and sharpens concentration. However, studies suggest that the antioxidant content in coffee is also helpful in reducing the risks of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
8. Berries – Want to include antioxidants into your diet? Snack on some berries! Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are a magnificent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the damage caused by free radicals and combat inflammation. Besides, berries also contain another super-nutrient called polyphenols, which improve memory, attention span, and concentration.
9. Turmeric – Turmeric is a staple of Indian cuisine and is considered a superfood. The main constituent of turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, thereby directly affecting the brain. It is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are directly linked to better memory, ease in symptoms of depression, and growth of new brain cells, thereby slowing down age-related mental decline.
10. Pumpkin seeds – A favorite snack throughout the world, this modest little seed packs some powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain. They are also rich sources of copper, zinc, iron, and magnesium. These metals are directly related to the brain’s better functioning, increasing memory, and reducing the risks of neurological diseases such as migraines, depression, and epilepsy.
11. Citrus fruits – Next time you want to show your brain some love, have an orange. Oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits have generous amounts of vitamin C. They are considered a directly correlated agent to age-related mental decline. Vitamin C deficiency can be kept at bay by including these food items in your diet. Other sources of vitamin C are strawberries, bell peppers, guavas, and tomatoes.
12. Dark chocolate – Chocolate makes one happy, period. Besides the happy-hormones that chocolate releases in our body, it is packed with flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants. These compounds can promote the general mental health and well-being of a person, as suggested by various studies. Some studies also showed that those who consumed chocolate regularly fared better in performing mental tasks than those who never ate it.
13. Eggs – Eggs are a rich source of many essential nutrients our body needs. Some of them are vitamin B6, B12, folates, and choline. Vitamin B deficiency and folate deficiency has been linked to depression, which can be negated by regular consumption of eggs. Choline is also essential for better memory and cognitive function. Eggs are the best sources to fight choline deficiency as they have the highest concentration of choline.
14. Nuts – It is known that the secrets to having a healthy heart and brain are to go nuts on nuts. It is proven in its functions of improving cognition and the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. Its concentration of vitamin E, antioxidants, and healthy fats makes it the best food for keeping your brain in its best form. Include them in your diet in healthy amounts to reap the best benefits.
15. Green tea – Another favorite beverage that has made it to the list is green tea. Known for its antioxidant attributes, green tea is also rich in a compound called L-theanine. This compound crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases the activity of a particular neurotransmitter known as GABA. This promotes feelings of relaxation and reduces anxiety. It also increases the frequency of the alpha waves in the brain, thereby inducing relaxation. It is also abundant in polyphenols that protect the brain from mental decline.