May is National Mental Health Month–and while we should be taking care of our mental health every month of the year, this month gives us a good reason to highlight the importance of this topic.
There are many factors that play a role in the status of our mental health–one of the most important being our diet. What we eat has an incredible influence on the health of our minds, considering our nutrition is one of the first steps we can take for a healthier brain. Read up on what foods to boost below and give your brain some TLC this month!
Brain Boosting Nutrients/Foods to Focus On:
Fermented Foods→ Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir help to increase the diversity of the gut microbiome. These beneficial microbes naturally live in our colon and help modulate our immune system and inflammation. Much of our brain’s neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, further supporting the importance of a healthy and robust microbiome.
Leafy Greens→ Kale, bok choy, arugula, swiss chard, and collard greens are all examples of leafy greens. Leafy greens are incredibly nutrient dense–not only for their vitamin and mineral profiles, but also for their abundance of phytonutrients. They are high in B vitamins, magnesium and fiber, both critical for brain and gut health.
Omega 3’s→ EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as wild caught fish, (salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel) avocados, walnuts and other nuts and seeds. EPA helps to lower inflammation in the brain and DHA plays an important role in the brain’s synaptic function, facilitating brain connectivity. It is important to get these daily either through diet or supplementation for not only brain health, but heart health, prevention of inflammation, and lowering cholesterol.
Magnesium→ Magnesium is also known as the calming mineral. It is essential for adequate function of nerve and brain cells and also stimulates brain growth. Nuts, seeds, beans, almonds, cashews, spinach and leafy green are all high in magnesium.
Potassium→ Potassium is vital for brain health as it regulates every neural signal and nerve cell in our nervous systems. Foods high in potassium include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. Foods particularly high in potassium are avocado, broccoli, sweet potatoes, white beans and bananas.
B Vitamins→ B vitamins are essential for brain health, namely they act to synthesize neurotransmitters. To increase your intake of B vitamins, incorporate foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, liver, spinach and eggs.
Zinc→ Pumpkin seeds, oysters, and ground turkey are rich in zinc. Zinc helps to regulate neuroplasticity and brain signaling. It is also great for boosting immunity, wound healing, and cell growth!
Iron→ Iron is an important player in the production of the brain’s neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating mood, pleasure and focus and hormones dopamine and serotonin. Increase your daily intake of iron through foods such as seafood, beans, nuts, leafy greens, quality meats, pumpkin seeds, oysters and spinach. Make sure to have some vitamin C with your iron to help boost absorption!
Other ways to boost mental health:
- Exercise- get your body moving and your brain will thank you!
- Mindfulness (Deep breathing, meditation, yoga)
- Prioritizing good sleep hygiene
- Finding community and connection in friends, family etc.- social health is so important!
- Fresh Spring Guacamole
- Zesty Citrus Salmon
- Brain Boosting Berry Mocktail