Lifestyle habits can play an important role in your mental health especially on anxiety, depression, seasonal effective disorder (SAD) or bipolar disease. Also, the food we consume significantly affects the structure and the function of the brain. It affects the function and synthesis of neurotransmitters as well as it dictates inflammatory processes.
However, many psychiatrists underestimate the importance of nutrition in the mental health. Although medication has some role in the mental health, it itself can’t make up for a poor diet.
You won’t have optimal emotional and psychological health if you do not pay attention to your physical health. So, when using some medications or talk therapies that improve your mental health, make sure you first improve your physical health.
Neither Celexa, Paxil, Viibryd nor Lexapro will help you without the needed amount of B3, B12, iodine, omega-3 fats and many other important nutrients.
9 Nutrients Which Are Highly Important for Your Mental Health
Iodine or the new vitamin D is highly important for a healthy thyroid gland. Unfortunately, most people do not take enough iodine, or it is largely removed from the food intake. From the recommended 800 mcg per day, the iodine intake was reduced to 138-350 mcg per day.
Although an average intake can prevent iodine deficiency, it can provide an optimal functioning of the psychological processes. If you look for some iodine supplements, make sure you choose some good-quality ones that provide at least 150 mcg iodine.
Foods rich in iodine include cod, seaweed, and iodized salt.
2. Omega-3 Fats
The omega-3 fat DHA is essential for the neuron (brain cell) structure. If there is a lack of these fats in your diet, other types such as trans fats will take their place. These trans fats promote inflammation and increase the risk of depression.
Omega-3 fat EPA improves the neuron function and reduces inflammation. In fact, this is the role omega-3 fats play in the reduction of depression and other mood disorders.
Food rich in omega-3 fats includes omega-3 fortified eggs, fatty fish, and other supplements.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 separate biochemical reactions, important for healthy teeth and bones, lower blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes and reduced anxiety.
However, most people only get half of the recommended magnesium daily intake. Magnesium stimulates the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Foods high in magnesium include seeds, nuts, whole grains, dark green vegetables, dark chocolate, and bran. However, magnesium supplements can help you meet the recommended amount and help you avoid magnesium deficiency which in turn can lead to depression.
Like magnesium, zinc is required for over 250 separate biochemical reactions that support almost every function. It is a highly important mineral for the neurotransmitter function and production.
Also, it is crucial for strong immune system and healthy digestion. The mental health greatly depends on the digestive tract because 90 percent of serotonin and 50 percent of dopamine is produced in the small intestines.
These following foods are rich in zinc lamb, beef, dark meat, pork, crab, oysters, chicken, cashews, legumes and high-quality multivitamin with minerals.
Selenium, like iodine, is a highly important mineral for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Just a small increase of the selenium intake can significantly improve the early symptoms of low thyroid function.
When the thyroid gland functions in the proper manner, there is a lower risk of some mental disorders and depression.
Selenium plays an important role in the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active hormone T3. It also promotes the production of the glutathione, the master antioxidant and detoxifying substance.
High levels of glutathione significantly reduce depression because of its ability to reduce inflammation in the brain.
To improve the levels of selenium in your body, consume more fish, Brazil nuts, shrimp, ham, chicken, and liver.
6. Vitamin D
As it is the case with the most nutrients we discussed so far, people do not get enough of vitamin D. However, this is another highly important vitamin for the brain health. The deficiency in this mineral not only leads to depression but SAD, anxiety and dementia.
To lower the risk of depression and increase the vitamin D levels you can use some supplementations or enrich your diet with some of the following foods. They include sardines, salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, and eggs.
7. B Complex
B Complex includes about 11 B vitamins, all of which are required for the proper neurotransmitter function and production. For example, B12 maintains brain mass or prevents brain shrinkage which in turn causes dementia. Depression is a typical B12 deficiency symptom.
B1, B3, B6 and folate are other B vitamins which are essential for the mental health. B6 and B12 along with folate lower the level of homocysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism. High levels of homocysteine can significantly increase the risk of depression.
In order to be effective for the mental health, dietary folate has to be converted to its active form 5-MTHR. Unfortunately, 66 percent of the people do not do this effectively because of the mutation in the gene which metabolizes folate into 5-MTHF and thus increasing the risk of folate deficiency to 180 percent.
You can find B vitamins in seeds, nuts, whole grains, meat and dark green vegetables.
Women are more prone to iron deficiency than men because of the loss due to menstruation. Iron deficiency is the most common form of anemia which has similar symptoms of depression such as irritability, fatigue, brain fog, apathy, lack of appetite and motivation.
If you want to increase the level of iron, make sure you combine foods rich in vitamin C with iron-rich foods because vitamin C enables the absorption of iron.
Women should choose a multivitamin with minerals and about 8-12 mg of iron while men should take a multi iron-free one.
Iron powerhouses include pork, beef, lamb, liver, dark meat chicken, white beans, and eggs.
9. Vitamin C
Vitamin C deficiency can lead to conditions such as bleeding, scurvy and achy gums which resolve after you take some vitamin C supplements. However, depression is one more common symptom of vitamin C deficiency.
About 20 percent of the people experience vitamin C deficiency not because of their diet but because of the gene mutation that does not allow them to absorb this vitamin properly. So, this causes a 150 percent increased risk of vitamin C deficiency.
So, include more kiwi, citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers in your diet to increase the level of vitamin C in your body.
To conclude, it’s food that generally feeds the brain. So, you can provide an optimal health if you do not pay attention to the function of the brain and mood regulation.