Today is World Mental Health Day, a day recognized by the World Health Organization in order to spread awareness about mental health. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Fortunately, there foods that you can incorporate into your diet to help you to feel your best.
- Everyone loves chocolate, and eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate per day has been found to reduce stress hormones, including cortisol. It can also help to increase endorphins, which are feel good chemicals.
- Eat more whole foods and less processed foods. People with diets high in desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and high-fat dairy products report feeling more depressed than those who follow a more healthy diet.
- About 45-65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, preferably from high fiber and whole grain sources. Carbohydrates can actually help to boost your mood because they promote the production of serotonin, a feel good brain chemical. Include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet.
- Limit saturated fats, which have been associated with a higher incidence of depression. Choose leaner meats, low-fat dairy products, and more plant based foods.
- Include fatty fish in your diet, such as salmon, herring, tuna, sardines, and rainbow trout, at least twice per week. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids results in increased dopamine and serotonin production, which help you to feel good.
- Eat foods high in vitamins B-12 and folate, including beans, citrus, and dark greens. These vitamins have been shown to positively impact mood and reduce depressive symptoms.
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. These foods are packed with antioxidants, which help you to feel better by reducing oxidative stress in your brain.
- Get your daily dose of vitamin D, which has been associated with a lower incidence of PMS, seasonal affective disorder, and depression. Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, egg yolks, and in fatty fish.
- Limit alcohol intake because it is a depressant. Women should consume no more than one serving of alcohol per day, and men should consume no more than two servings per day.
- Be aware of your caffeine intake. It can disrupt your sleep at night, which can make you more irritable during the day.
- Remember to exercise, which helps to reduce depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins. Exercise also helps to take your mind off your worries. Aim for 30 minutes or more per day for three to five days per week.
On this World Mental Health Day, think about ways you can be healthier in order to feel better. Improve your mental health by following a balanced diet and by incorporating exercise into your routine.