“You are what you eat” – every person at least once in their life.
We all know the benefits of fresh, healthy food on the body – but how about the mind? Check out our top seven picks to help feed your brain and improve your mental health and wellness.
7. Oily fish
We’ve always heard that fish is good ‘brain food’ – but why? Let us introduce the wonders of the little fatty acid DHA.
DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid, which helps improve both short and long-term memory, contributing to optimal brain health. Additionally, a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids can also help to boost feelings of mental health and wellness and reduce levels of anxiety.
Find DHA in ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout and prawns, or if you’re not keen on seafood, a fish oil supplement.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries – if you’re looking for the perfect snack to get your antioxidant fix, this is it. Antioxidants assist in repairing cells, as well as assisting in combating inflammation caused by free radical damage. By reducing the damages caused by free radicals (found in pollutants, cigarette smoke and other nasties), these antioxidants have also been found to assist in improving symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
As an added bonus, berries (blueberries and strawberries) also contain a compound called polyphenolics, which have been found to improve memory, concentration and attention span.
If you’ve ever spruiked the benefits of yoghurt for an upset stomach, you may be doing yourself more of a favour than you think.
Many people enjoy yoghurt for the added benefit of probiotics (which help your digestive system to run smoothly), however recent research has stated that, thanks to the brain-gut connection, probiotics found in cultures such as yoghurt can also impact a person’s mental health, assisting in lowering levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
There’s a reason carbs are so delightful – and they don’t have to take a back seat in your daily diet.
According to studies, wholegrains are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin (aka, the ‘feel good hormone’). Serotonin assists in calming the mind, improving your mood and maintaining a steady sleep cycle.
If you’re after a snack that happens to help your long-term brain health, make it a handful of walnuts. They look like a brain for a reason.
Walnuts are full of antioxidants, helping to inhibit oxidation in the brain and body. Even more amazingly, these nuts can also lead to the growth of new neurons – basically, this means walnuts can help us to grow new brain cells, an essential aspect of maintaining good mental health.
2. Leafy greens
We’ve all heard the loud praises leafy greens seem to get for everything – including mental health. If you can’t beat it, join it.
According to a study published in Neurology, people who regularly consumed daily servings of leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens have a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who avoided piling their plates with greens.
It’s the musical fruit – but did you know beans are also one of the top food choices for a happy, healthy brain?
Full of fibre and antioxidants, beans and legumes (chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans, for example) keep you fuller for longer, keeping your blood sugar stable and enabling you to burn more energy (which, as we know is essential for good mental health). Beans also contain thiamine, a vitamin needed for the production of acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter essential for memory).
Subscribe for more mental health news
Sign up to the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association and become part of a community dedicated to supporting and advancing the field of mental health.
Membership is FREE. Register here.