A healthy body and a healthy mind are both critical parts of a healthy person. For many years, physical health and mental health have been treated as completely separate entities. Kind of like how you see a dentist for your teeth and a doctor for everything else. There has been increasing interest in how food and exercise can help improve mood and mental health. Whilst there is a lot more evidence in the exercise world showing mental health benefits, there are some foods that we know can help to boost your mood.
Food is not a replacement for medications, these foods may be worth a try alongside any treatments (pharmacological or psychological) you currently receive to help with mental illness. Please seek medical and/or dietetic assistance for individual advice.
(1) Oily fish
Omega-3 fats found in oily fish such as salmon and trout were long touted to help improve memory. Omega-3s have shown therapeutic benefit for people with severe mental illnesses. The other “side effect” of these good fats is they help keep your heart healthy by undoing the work of the “bad” fats that narrow your arteries. Given that people with mental illness tend to have shorter lifespans and a greater risk of heart disease, this is certainly an added bonus of eating oily fish.
Nuts, like oily fish, also contain omega-3s – particularly walnuts. However, they also have the added bonus of containing lots of the amino acid, tryptophan, which in turn goes onto make serotonin (with the help of other vitamins). Serotonin is a chemical made by the nervous system and when there is enough of it in the body, it can help reduce depression and regulate anxiety. Walnuts look like brains, so it’s easy to remember they’re good for your mental health! Throw them on your cereal, porridge, pancake mix or a loaf of banana bread.
Eggs (despite popular belief, are not like cigarettes at all) are a rich source of high-quality protein. They’re also rich in tryptophan which goes onto help boost serotonin. A cheap and easy breakfast option to start your day off on the right foot and in a good mood.
Let’s be honest, cheese will boost your mood from the taste alone. A good cheese platter at a social event is bound to leave you feeling good. There’s also a chemical reason for that, once again high in tryptophan – cheese can help boost serotonin and aid in keeping those low moods at bay.
(5) Warm milk
Numerous mental illnesses and disorders are accompanied by disturbed sleep. The combination of the warmth and the amino acids found in milk may help you fall to sleep a little easier. So the next time you’re up late at night with the events of the day swirling in your head, try some warm milk and honey to get back to those much-needed zeds.
It’s not just the time of the year that we eat turkey that makes us feel good. Turkey is best known for its high levels of tryptophan. Which is probably why you’re in a good mood AND you feel sleepy after Christmas lunch!
Taking care of both body and mind is necessary. It’s important to continue to maintain your best physical health by eating a balanced diet and exercising often, even when you’re not in the best mood. It might just be the thing that brightens up your day and pulls you out of a slump.