Our diet provides essential building blocks for maintaining both our physical and mental health. Yet many times, the influence of nutrition is often overlooked. Blood sugar imbalances and brain chemistry can heavily influence the development of anxiety and mood swings. This is especially important to keep in mind for our teens—when growth and puberty increase demand for nutrients, their mental health can often suffer as a consequence.
What we consume—especially in regards to food, but also even in terms of what we see, read, and hear from the news and social media—is essential and contributes to our health and well-being.
It’s important to understand how diet can both support and impact mental health, and can give you nutritional tools to support your body and mind. Here are some tips to help take care of your mental wellbeing through nutrition.
Eat the right fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are responsible for most brain and mental health benefits. These fats can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules that are inside the brain. They also have incredible anti-inflammatory actions that can help relieve depression.
What types of foods provide omega-3s?
– Fish (salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines)
– Nuts & seeds
– Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil)
Improve your digestion
The gut-brain connection in terms of anxiety and depression is no joke. Our gastrointestinal tract is extremely sensitive to emotion. Anxiety, sadness, anger – every one of these feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut.
Knowing which foods and lifestyle behaviors can contribute to a healthy gut and which could cause harm is a great tool to have when focusing on better mental health.
– Get enough fiber in your diet (Broccoli, oats, avocados, apples, and berries are full of fiber)
– Eat less processed foods
– Eat more probiotic-rich foods (Sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, kvass)
– Try to avoid eating meals when you’re stressed or nervous