When it comes to your mental health, have you thought about the role nutrition might play? Here at Nutrition Healthworks, we know that proper nutrition enhances outcomes and quality of life for many disease states and comorbidities. Why would depression be any different? Food and proper nutritional status provide the building blocks for our bodies to function well on a daily basis. Our brains are no exception and can benefit from regular intakes of specific foods and nutrients.
The Right Foods Fight Depression
When it comes to general health guidelines, we know that eating enough fruits and vegetables is often mentioned. But now we’re starting to see how increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is quite important for our brains. There have been quite a few studies showing how certain antioxidants and nutrients found in produce are crucial for maintaining balanced brain chemistry. Specifically, folic acid (found in dark leafy vegetables) and polyphenols (found in colorful produce such as peppers and berries) are great brain nutrients. Tips for increasing fruit and vegetable intake include aiming for half of your plate to be fruits AND vegetables, increasing the diversity and variety of produce you eat, and eating all colors of the rainbow to help maximize the amount of nutrition in your diet. In addition to eating more produce, switching to whole grains rather than white, refined grains and limiting added sugars are also important to stay balanced.
Nutrients You Need
Additional nutrients include vitamin D, B12, and omega 3 fatty acids. Vitamin D can be limited in the foods we eat, but better sources include egg yolks, liver, and fortified foods such as milk. Lean and appropriately portioned meats are rich sources of vitamin B12. For those that do not eat meat, you can get B12 from dairy products, eggs, nutritional yeast, or nori. Omega 3s come from fatty fish (think salmon or mackerel), walnuts, and flax seeds. Your brain is nearly 60% fat, which is why having regular intake of these omega 3 rich foods is important.
Let these tips provide some literal “food for thought.” When it comes to your brain and fighting depression, proper nutrition can be an important pillar of health. If you need some guidance, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you reach your goals.
MS, RDN, LDN
Kelly is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a passion for helping individuals and families. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida before moving to Saint Louis to complete her Dietetic Internship and Master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University. READ MORE