World Mental Health Day is taking place this week. There is a greater focus on mental health generally right now, so never has there been a better time to discuss the topic more openly.
Importantly, it’s also the perfect time to be looking at the connection between certain foods and nutrients and their effects on emotional wellbeing.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five foods to support a healthy mind.
Not only called the food of love because they’re known to be ‘aphrodisiacs’, oysters are rich in the mineral zinc, which is essential for mental wellbeing. This is partly because zinc is one of our busiest minerals, being used in over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body, plus the brain naturally contains zinc.
There’s much research to suggest its positive benefits in cases of depression and zinc is known to be depleted in UK diets. This is partly because it’s rich in whole grain foods, rather than refined ones which tend to feature too highly in the typical daily diet. However, seafood in another great source and oysters are certainly top of the list. Don’t wait for the next Valentine’s Day to enjoy a romantic oyster dish!
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 which is essential for producing our happy hormone ‘serotonin’. Plus, vitamin B6 is needed for energy release, so you get the best of both worlds.
Bananas make a perfect snack, especially when you’re on the run. They also make an excellent pre-workout snack for an extra boost so you can push your body that bit harder!
Often referred to as a super food, broccoli delivers health benefits in so many ways. Importantly, broccoli (and other green, leafy vegetables) are high in the mineral magnesium, which is needed to produce brain neurotransmitters, but also has a calming effect on the body generally.
Anxiety levels are soaring right now, in all age groups, so we all need to be mindful of specific nutrients that can help calm both mind and body. Stress depletes magnesium, so it’s even more important to be loading up on greens.
And rather than just serving up plain boiled or steamed broccoli, why not lightly toss it in some pesto and pine nuts before serving, to add some interest to your plate.
Mackerel is a tasty and super-healthy oily fish that’s loaded with omega-3 fats. These fats are essential to have in the diet because the body can’t make them, and they are critical for brain health, because the brain naturally contains them.
The National Diet and Nutrition Surveys confirm that the UK population is very deficient in omega-3s across all age ranges. The recommended weekly amount is at least two portions of oily fish (salmon is also great), to try and redress the balance.
Mackerel is such a versatile fish. Try it chargrilled, in salads (it’s especially good with beetroot) or as made a pate. It is also delicious pre-smoked in a risotto, or gently pan-fried and served with rice or potatoes and your favourite veggies. If you’re in a rush, why not use some tinned mackerel on wholemeal toast for a quick and incredibly healthy and filling lunch.
Blueberries are loaded with vitamin C, another nutrient that’s essential for good brain health. Vitamin C is also one of our most powerful antioxidants which are very protective of the brain. Even better, blueberries are rich in plant compounds called polyphenols, also packed with antioxidants; it’s their beautiful rich colour that’s partly responsible for their health benefits.
Blueberries are low on the glycaemic index so, unlike many fruits, they won’t upset blood sugar levels which can also cause dips in mood. Serve them with your morning porridge or cereal or eat them with some natural yoghurt and seeds, for a healthy and quick, energy-sustaining breakfast.
So, include nutrients and foods in your diet that feed your brain and help support your brain from the inside out.
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