For many of us, 'Finish your sabji-roti right now' felt like a prison sentence back when we are only a few feet tall. As a child, I remember my grandmother encouraging me to eat all the fruits and vegetables that were in season, and so I gorged on gooseberries in winter and caught no throat infection.
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Today, we eat hybrid and most fruits are available across seasons. This often makes it difficult to recognise the seasonal fruits and vegetables that will help fight diseases. While a good dose of veggies and fruits should take care of physical health, what about food for better mental health? Here are some foods that are consistently found to be recommended for good mental health.
Good fats for good mood: Omega-3 The top food on my list and my personal favourite source of omega-3, is fish. Omega-3 fatty acids help in the production of serotonin and dopamine, the feel good hormones. It also boosts memory and learning.
If you're a vegetarian or don't eat fish, you can find Omega-3 in flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and seaweed. This brain food cannot be produced by the body and has to be supplied by the foods we consume and a lack of this vital micro-nutrient has been associated with low mood, cognitive decline and poor comprehension. So don't forget to grab a few nuts and seeds to beat the blues!
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Beat the blues with magnesium rich foods
Found in leafy greens, banana, nuts and seeds, among other foods, magnesium is one of the most important minerals for good mental health. In a study, it was found that increasing magnesium led to a significant improvement in depression and anxiety, regardless of age, gender or severity of depression.
Stay sharp with complex carbs The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose, which in turn is found in carbohydrates. Simple carbs (refined foods made from maida, or sugar-laden goodies) give a momentary high, but complex carbs (whole grains and cereals) release energy slowly and keep you feeling full for a longer time. Complex carbs are found in whole wheat products, oats, bulgur, beans and soy, among other wholegrain products.
Beat anxiety with lean protein Lean protein help reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression and improve cognitive functioning. Lean protein can be found in chicken, turkey, eggs and vegetarian sources include beans, lentils and soy.
Power your day on green fuel Not just your physical health, leafy greens come highly recommended for your mental health as well. Greens are a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and folate. Broccoli is high in potassium, folate and vitamin C. Broccoli has a prebiotic which creates a friendly environment for gut bacteria to flourish. Research on the gut has linked a healthy gut to lower levels of anxiety and a better mental outlook.
Happy high with vitamins
Is there some thing like the most important vitamin? Not quite, but Vit D and B12 have a major role to play in beating the blues and flexing your mental muscle. Besides fatty fish like salmon and some mushrooms, eggs are a great source of Vitamin D. They are also a rich source of protein and Vitamin B12. Fruits like guava and oranges and most berries are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Probiotics play a lead role in improving mental health, and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. The gut-friendly bacteria in yoghurt allows the body and brain to use the nutrients. It also is a good source of calcium and potassium. Indians don’t need any food pairing suggestions to eat yoghurt as we can eat anything from paranthas to rice with dahi.
...And cut back on
Foods rich in sugar. These affect the body's insulin and lead to inflammation. Several studies have found a link between sugar and poor mental health.
Processed and ready to cook meals have a high sodium content and laden with preservatives. Studies have shown a link between an increase in hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder among children and artificial food colouring.
Dr Rizwana Nulwala is a Mumbai-based practising psychotherapist at Krizalyz Counselling and Mental Health Services.
Disclaimer: Readers are recommended to avoid self-diagnosis and to consult a professional counsellor/medical doctor in case of doubt.
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