We all know that quality nutrition plays an important role in living a healthy lifestyle. When you combine good nutrition with exercise it creates a recipe for reaching your body goals and reduces your risk of developing diseases.
A balanced, healthy diet in combination with exercise can improve your mood, reduce stress and make your body healthier on the inside and out. But good nutrition also affects our mental health. For example, it can improve your memory, concentration and recollection ability.
A lot more research has been done on the benefits of healthy eating on your physical wellbeing, but what about mental health? Current research suggests that certain types of foods that can improve our mental abilities. Below you will find a list of foods that improve mental health.
Food is our most important source of energy. It fuels the body and allows it to function properly and it is no different for our brain. The brain’s ability to concentrate and focus requires a constant supply of energy in the form of blood glucose (blood sugar). Foods on the low end of the glycemic index (GI) scale provide a slow-releasing supply of glucose. Wholegrains are a great food that improves mental health, which is why it is important to include foods such as cereals, granary bread, brown pasta and oats into your diet. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest that wholegrains should make up at least half of the grains you eat.
Some Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are not naturally found in our bodies. Fish like salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines contain good amounts of them! For example, Omega-3 is an EFA, which has been shown to have a wealth of health benefits. These range from cancer preventions, healthy heart function and joints to a ‘younger mind’.
EPA and DHA are fish derived Omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of DHA have been linked to a worse memory and a higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A study by Dr David Llewellyn at University of Exeter Medical School found a link between low levels of Vitamin D and a higher risk of developing Dementia. Most of our vitamin D comes from being exposed to the sun, however oily fish have good quantities of Vitamin D also, making it one of the best foods that improve mental health.
Free radicals are harmful molecules produced by the body during the exposure to different types of environmental stress. These molecules interact with cell and cause damage, such as contributing to the aging process and in extreme cases can lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s diseases.
Vitamin E is an Antioxidant, which interacts with Free Radicals and contributes to protecting the cells from damage. Nuts and Sunflower Seeds contain good amounts of Vitamin E. Pumpkin Seeds are also a great source of Zinc, which contributes to improvements in memory and thinking skills.
Tomatoes contain Lycopene, a powerful Antioxidant that protects cells from particular Free Radicals. These have been found in cells during the development of Dementia.
Young soybeans that are harvested before they ripen are hardened and become Edamame Beans. They contain Choline, an essential nutrient that is used by the body as building blocks for neurotransmitters. They send signals containing information throughout the nervous system.
Don’t forget about exercise
Eating a healthy, balanced diet has shown to improve your mental and physical health Is is equally important to take part in regular physical activity. Outside of the physical benefits, exercise has shown to improve learning ability by challenging the brain.
Findings also show a decrease in the risk of Alzheimer’s as it protects the hippocampus – the area of the brain which governs memory and spatial navigation. It is often the first to succumb to Alzheimer’s related damage.
Many of the foods listed here are part of the Mediterranean diet. In fact, a study of 166 clinically depressed people found that after 12 weeks of following a modified Mediterranean diet the participant’s symptoms had reduced significantly.
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 27th May, 2020.