When we start our day on a road to wellness by choosing healthy foods, exercising and engaging in other helpful behaviors we tend to maintain an imaginary “health halo” for the day. On these days, it’s our approach to wellness that has a positive impact on our mental state and encourages us to remain on our positive path to better living.
There are also some foods that are believed to boost our mood and have a beneficial physiological response that changes our chemistry to relieve stress, create calm and play a role in our overall mental health. Science is exploring how this works so that we may benefit from making these foods part of our prescription for better emotional health.
Carbohydrate-rich foods help our body (more specifically our brain) use the amino acid tryptophan (found in a variety of foods) to produce serotonin, a hormone aligned with better mood and sleep. Seek high quality, complex carbohydrates like grains, fruit, vegetables and beans for the greatest benefit.
If you think that your tea is calming and relaxing you aren’t imagining it. A component in tea, l-Theanine, induces a calming feeling and aids in creating a tranquil mood, improved sleep, and possibly a lower heart rate, while caffeine-rich black tea is aligned with improved focus and concentration.
We don’t just believe that it makes us happier, some science shows that it does. However, before you reach for a king-size candy bar, consider the best way to eat it. It seems that slowing down to mindfully eat just a small portion induces happiness and boosts serotonin levels. New research highlights the role dark chocolate may play in improving cognition, memory, immunity and more. It’s important to remember that it only takes a little to have a positive benefit…sorry chocolate lovers.
The science here is emerging, but researchers believe that some strains of probiotics may be able to play a role in improving mental health status. The “how” is quite complex, but investigators have been able to observe a change in brain chemistry in a small sample of volunteers when those participants were given a specific blend of probiotics.
We know that nuts are rich in fiber and heart-healthy fat, as well as helpful for controlling appetite and maintaining an ideal body weight. But, nuts are much more than that. Almonds, for example are complete with micronutrients like magnesium and folate, which benefit our neurological health, as well as tyrosine (an amino acid that encourages dopamine production).
Omega Fatty Acids
Like nuts, we already know that omega fatty acids benefit us and that we should seek to make fish a regular part of our diet. What you may not know is that these essential fats are directly correlated with reducing depression and improving mental health status. Seek salmon, walnuts, chia, ground flaxseed, hemp, or fish oil supplements.