Could diet affect our mental health?
Our diet could have a significant impact on our mental health, according to new research. We have known for years that eating well makes us look better and Jerome Sarris, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne, now asserts certain nutrients are also essential for brain function.
Writing for The Conversation, he highlights the importance of a healthy diet and nutritional supplements to our mental health.
Clinical studies are supporting the use of omega-3 fatty acids, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, and B vitamins (including folic acid) in the treatment of certain psychiatric disorders. Brain health is also believed to be affected by natural components including microbiotics - derived from fermented food or laboratory synthesis – as well as plant-based antioxidants and amino acids.
While experts are reluctant to single out any particular foods to help with the treatment of mental illness, they do advise the use of prescriptive nutrients and a diet rich in unprocessed whole foods.
Here, we take a look at some foods which are known to be brimming with essential nutrients.
Research has shown that B vitamins such as folate (B9) have increased antidepressant response rates or the response rate to medications. Anyone looking for foods high in folate should reach for leafy greens, nuts and legumes. Eggs, cheese, wholegrains and unprocessed meats all boast impressive vitamin B levels, and experts advise the use of supplements along with these foods.
Omega-3 supplements are often recommended for bipolar depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. This nutrient can be found naturally in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as nuts and seeds.
Iron deficiency has been associated with depression and anxiety, and is involved in a host of neurological activities. The nutrient is in rich supply in unprocessed organ meats such as liver and also features in leafy greens such as spinach.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, and these compounds are believed to combat free radicals that damage cells. Brain cell damage has been linked to several disorders such as dementia and depression. Berries, grapes, mangoes, garlic and kale – along with a variety of herbal teas – are said to contain impressive levels of antioxidant compounds.