When we’re feeling unmotivated, anxious or stressed, it can be difficult to think clearly or problem solve effectively. Instead of creating solutions, we often reach for comfort food to feel more relaxed. Treats and snacks that are high in sugar and saturated fat may provide a temporary mood boost, but can cause lethargy later. Eating junk food as a coping mechanism can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
2020 Public Health Research reports that the prevalence of depression symptoms in the US was more than 3-times higher in 2020 than it was in 2019. With depression and anxiety on the rise, the risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease is on the rise as well.
How Food Affects the Brain
Junk food can reduce our mental capacity to think clearly. Choosing more nutritious foods may provide more effective relief from stress and anxiety.
A 2014 Frontiers in Psychology study explains, “Reward and gratification associated with food consumption leads to dopamine (DA) production, which in turn activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain. An individual will repeatedly eat a particular food to experience this positive feeling of gratification. This type of repetitive behavior of food intake leads to the activation of brain reward pathways that eventually overrides other signals of satiety and hunger. Thus, a gratification habit through favorable food leads to overeating and morbid obesity.
If you find yourself reaching for comfort food, consider creating healthier eating habits by having more nutritious foods on hand. Stock up on the following foods to help train your brain to feel rewarded by nutrition. These four nutritious foods can boost your mental health and improve your overall health in a variety of ways.
4 Foods to Boost Mental Health Naturally
Bananas are an easy snack to take on the go that can turn your frown upside down. Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Bananas are also high in potassium which affects mood and mental energy. Potassium influences blood flow which affects mental health. Low blood potassium levels can disrupt the signals that help maintain optimal brain function. A 2009 study found that hypokalemia, aka a potassium deficiency, was common among psychiatric patients with mental disorders.
Make sure to choose ripe bananas with some green on the peel. Ripe bananas are an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fiber that helps feed healthy bacteria in the gut. A healthy gut leads to a healthy mind!
2. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a classic mood booster because it includes a variety of feel-good compounds such as N-acylethanolamine — a substance chemically similar to cannabinoids.
Dark chocolate is also high in magnesium. Magnesium plays a critical role in balancing brain function and regulating mental health. Low levels of magnesium are linked to an increased risk of depression. According to a 2013 study, “Magnesium is one of the most essential minerals in the human body, connected with brain biochemistry and the fluidity of neuronal membranes. A variety of neuromuscular and psychiatric symptoms, including different types of depression, was observed in magnesium deficiency.”
Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping you feel calm and relaxed. In a 2008 trial to treat depressed adults in their 60’s, taking magnesium daily improved mood as effectively as an antidepressant drug.
While you may be tempted to reach for a typical Hershey’s bar or bag of M&Ms, make sure to check the cocoa percentage first! Since regular milk chocolate contains added ingredients like sugar and fat, choose 70%+ dark chocolate in its raw form for maximum mental health benefits.
Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, are tasty snacks that improve brain health. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources of plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Nuts and seeds lower the risk of depression by increasing brain health. They also include tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin.
Certain nuts and seeds, such as Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts, are good sources of zinc and selenium. Deficiency in these minerals has been associated with higher rates of depression.
If you’d like an extra excuse to eat sushi, fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are a group of good, essential fats that you can only absorb through diet. Omega-3s influence neurotransmitter levels and play a key role in brain development. Salmon and tuna contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
A 2003 European Neuropsychopharmacology study found that “Patients with depression have been extensively reported to be associated with the abnormality of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including significantly low EPA AND DPA in cell tissue contents”
A 100-gram serving of salmon provides 2,260 mg of EPA and DHA so it’s an ideal source of both nutrients and stress-relief.
Boost Mental Health Naturally with Supplements
Support your mental health and diet habits with natural supplements. Mental health supplements offer a quick, easy way to absorb essential nutrients daily. Balance your nervous system and increase brain health with the following options:
Potassium and magnesium play key roles in mental health and brain development. Potassium helps increase blood flow and nutrient delivery to the brain. Magnesium balances brain biochemistry and fluidity of neuronal membranes. A healthy, nourished brain has the energy to problem-solve, rationalize and create solutions effectively.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to detox both physically and mentally. Boost your moods with natural melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin helps regulate circadian rhythms and your body’s natural sleep cycle. Quality sleep can help you wake up feeling more focused and motivated.
5-HTP can support relaxation and help you feel more rested. The brain uses 5-HTP to produce serotonin, a calming hormone. Serotonin regulates sleep, appetite and temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. 5-HTP can balance serotonin levels by helping us feel more calm, focused and grounded.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant. It can help treat conditions like pain, insomnia, and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.
If you’d like to declutter your mood and mind, find more clarity with Tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that plays a critical role in dopamine production. Dopamine is also closely linked to memory. Tyrosine can improve mental alertness, attention and focus.
Contact Natural Bio Health Today
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