Under the Hood

Top Diet Secrets To Improve Mental Health

There are many factors that can affect your mood (and by extension, your health) for the day, and one of them is a surprise: the food you eat. To put it this way, your brain is like a car: put in the right "fuel", such as essential vitamins and minerals, and it will function properly, protecting it from oxidative stress, which results in the production of cell-damaging free radicals.

The same is true in the opposite: fill your brain with the wrong kind of "fuel", such as those found in processed and refined food, and it will adversely affect your mental health. Substances from this "fuel" are hard to remove if they reach the brain.

In other words, your brain is affected by the nutrient content of the food you eat. If the food consumed is rich in vitamins and minerals, it will function well if not better; otherwise, it will infect your brain with free radicals or inflammatory cells, contributing to brain tissue damage. What is interesting is that until now, this link between food and mood has not been fully acknowledged by the medical community. 

Fortunately, this is where the growing field of nutritional psychiatry comes in. It finds that there are many consequences and correlations between not only what you eat, your mood and your lifestyle and behavior, but also the kinds of bacteria that live in your gut.

Dr. Uma Naidoo, psychiatrist, professional chef and founder of the first hospital-based nutritional psychiatry service in the United States, shared some top diet secrets for you to improve your mental health:

Eat Whole Food 

Instead of reaching for a box of fruit juice, try eating fruits (or vegetables) whole. One way to start is to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, with the latter building up daily meals and adding fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet with few calories if prepared healthily.  

Consume Berries 

Various berries such as strawberries, blueberries and even acai berries are packed with polyphenols that make them rich in antioxidants, decreasing the risk of certain diseases and cancers.

Drink Enough Water 

Naidoo said that to maintain hydration, it is best to drink enough water, preferably 8 to 13 times daily, with each glass having 8 ounces of water, according to recommendations from the Nutrition Source at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Include Plant-Based Proteins 

Add plant-based food rich in essential proteins to your daily diet, meals and snacks. Examples of protein-rich plant-based food include chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds.

Eat Anxiety-Reducing Food 

As part of a balanced meal plan, Naidoo suggested including magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet. Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, black beans, spinach, lean poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey) and edamame.

Fruits and Vegetables Fruits and vegetables. Pixabay