Smitha Nair M.D.

Foods to Improve Mental Health

You’ve probably heard of eating well to improve heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers, but what about taking care of your mind?

Most people are aware that we need to continue to challenge our brain by learning new things or engaging in thought-provoking hobbies. But by making a few simple dietary changes, you may also boost cognitive function and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

One of the best ways to improve your mental health is through your gut. Your gut is often called your second brain. What you put in your gut can impact the functioning of your brain.

Below are four foods that keep the mind working at its best.

Healthy Fats:

The brain is made up largely of fat and the body cannot manufacture essential fatty acids, therefore we need a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods include salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, seaweed, avocados, flaxseed, and walnuts.

Complex Carbohydrates:

The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates but you want the complex carbs not simple carbs. Complex carbs release glucose slowly, helping us feel full longer and providing a steady source of fuel for the brain and body. Complex carbohydrates make up the primary source of energy for the brain. Look for whole-wheat products, bulgur, oats, wild rice, barley, and beans.

Leafy Greens:

Spinach, romaine, turnip and mustard greens, and broccoli are high in B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to higher rates of depression, fatigue, and insomnia.

Fermented foods:

The stomach is the second brain because it produces chemical messengers for the brain. You can boost the production of anti-anxiety and anti-stress hormones by feeding healthy gut bacteria with probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut.

Nutrition is a key contributor to good mental health but if you’re struggling with symptoms and need additional help, schedule your appointment with functional medicine practitioner Dr. Nair, MD, click here.