May is Mental Health Month! Nutrition plays a huge role in physical health, but it can also affect your mental edge and overall mood. Put these “brain foods” on your plate to keep you feeling healthy and happy this spring!
Protein & Healthy Fats
- Proteins are made up of amino acids. A certain amino acid, tryptophan, helps our bodies make a brain chemical called serotonin, which helps to regulate mood.
- Oily fish, like salmon, is also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which supports brain health, since fat is an important structural component of the brain.
- Walnuts are not only shaped like a brain, but they are good for your brain too! Walnuts are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.
- Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found almost solely in dairy products. Vitamin D is not only crucial to build strong bones, but support mental health as well. Research shows that getting adequate vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing depression.
Starch: Whole Grains and Starchy Vegetables
- Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. In fact, glucose is the only nutrient that can pass the blood-brain barrier to feed the brain.
- Carbohydrates include whole grains, cereals, pastas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas.
- These starches are high in fiber and other nutrients that give us energy and help our bodies make hormones that influence emotions.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruits, like vegetables, offer lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Berries and citrus fruits specifically, are high in vitamin C which help support the immune system and protect us from infection. Seasonal sickness is not fun and often has a negative effect on mood.
- Vegetables are nutrient-dense powerhouses that support overall health and provide color and visual appeal to meals. Even white vegetables, like cauliflower, come with their own special benefits.
- Cauliflower is in the cruciferous vegetable family similar to broccoli and cabbage. These veggies are packed with nutrients to prevent cancer and inflammation and to keep your metabolism healthy.