When it comes to mental health, one of the most overlooked aspects is nutrition. What we eat not only plays a significant role in our physical health, but our mental and emotional health as well. This is something we may have taken for granted in the past, but it makes sense that the foods we eat have just as much effect on our brains as they do on the rest of our bodies. This is particularly true during the winter, where the cold weather influences our winter diet.
So how does our diet play a role in mental health? Studies have shown that individuals who regularly consume refined carbs, sugar and processed meats have higher rates of mental health issues. This is believed to occur due to inflammation in the body which is caused by heavily processed foods upsetting the bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains allows us to maintain good levels of the nutrients and antioxidants that our bodies need.
Changing our eating habits can be difficult especially when many of us turn to comfort foods (aka junk foods) when the cold weather strikes. Sugary, familiar foods can give us that quick pick me up but in the long run they just make us feel guilty and contribute to our bad dietary habits. If you want to focus on a good winter diet for your mental health, the following are some foods that can help:
- Fatty Fish and Nuts – These foods are packed with Omega -3 fats which can help lead to increased serotonin production and decrease mental health issues.
- Dark Chocolate – Chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa solids will help release endorphins and improve mood.
- Beans – These are a really great source of protein and fiber which help maintain stable and consistent blood sugar levels. By reducing spikes and dips in your blood sugar, you will experience more even moods.
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables – Folate is a major nutrient found in vegetables, especially green leafy ones. Individuals who suffer from mental health issues have been found to have lower levels of folate than those without these issues. Seasonally available vegetables include collard greens, turnip greens, and spinach.
- Single Ingredient Foods – Processed foods are filled with preservatives and lack nutritional value. When your body tries to figure out what do to with these foods it can interrupt its normal function. It is best to give your body foods in their most natural state.
As you can see, there are many foods that reduce mental health issues. However, whatever you decide, make sure that you are choosing the best foods you can to allow your body to function optimally. Before making any radical dietary changes, speak with your medical provider.