Like the complex relationship between the gut and brain, diet and mental health are closely linked – and linked in both ways: a lack of good dietary choices leads to an increase in mental health problems, and mental health problems in turn lead to poor eating habits.
When people found out that I was a psychiatrist, brain health researcherand a nutritionist, they often ask me how they should eat to maximize their amazing brain power.
Based on my research with hundreds of patients, here are the best brain-boosting foods that people don’t get enough of. Incorporating them into your diet can improve your mood, improve memory, and help The brain works at its highest efficiency:
In addition to adding flavor, spices are known for their antioxidant properties. In other words, they help the brain fight harmful free radicals and thus prevent oxidative stress, which can damage tissues.
One of my favorite spices is turmeric – a standout when it comes to anxiety reduction. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can reduce anxiety and change the corresponding brain chemistryprotect the walrus.
I also love saffron. In 2013, one meta-analysis of five previously published randomized and controlled trials that examined the effects of saffron supplementation on depressive symptoms in participants with major depressive disorder.
In all of these tests, the researchers found that saffron consumption is significantly reduced depressive symptoms compared with the placebo control group.
Fermented foods are created by combining milk, vegetables, or other raw materials with microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria.
Some examples include plain yogurt with active cultures, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. These are all possible sources of live bacteria Promotes healthy gut function and reduces anxiety.
Probiotic-rich yogurt can be an effective part of your diet, but keep in mind that heat-treated yogurt doesn’t provide the same benefits. One such example is yoghurt-covered raisins – these won’t give you any relief because heat-treated yogurt is free of beneficial bacteria.
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of iron, which helps form the protective sheath of nerve cells and help control the synthesis of chemotactic substances and chemical pathways involved in mood.
In 2019, a cross-sectional survey Over 13,000 adults found that those who regularly ate dark chocolate had a 70% reduced risk of depressive symptoms.
Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants, as long as you stick to the dark stuff and make sure it doesn’t have too much sugar.
Avocados are relatively high in magnesium, which is important for the normal functioning of the brain.
The first report of magnesium treatment for agitated depression was published in 1921and it has shown success in a whopping 220 out of 250 cases.
Since then, countless studies has suggested that depression is related to magnesium deficiency. Several case studies, in which patients were treated with 125 to 300 milligrams of magnesium, demonstrated rapid recovery from major depressive episodes, often in less than a week.
I love mixing avocado, chickpeas, and olive oil as a delicious spread on low GI toast like Pumpernickel, or as a dip for fresh veggies.
Nuts have the healthy fats and oils our brains need to function properly, along with essential vitamins and minerals – the selenium in Brazil nuts, for example.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts show great promise in improving thinking and memory.
I recommend eating 1/4 cup a day (no more – it’s easy to overdo it with nuts!) as a snack or add to your salad or veggie side dish. Nuts can even be incorporated into a homemade granola or granola mix that contains much less sugar and salt than the store-bought versions.
When I say that greens like kale make a difference in health, my patients pop their noses at the idea. But green vegetables contain vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids, which are nutrients protect against dementia and cognitive decline.
Another benefit is that they’re an incredible source of folate, a natural form of vitamin B9 that’s important in red blood cell formation. Where folate deficiency can be the cause of some neurological conditions, improvement of folate status can beneficial effect about our cognitive state, and is a necessary cofactor in neurotransmitter production.
Green vegetables like spinach, Swiss chard, and dandelion greens are also a great source of folate!
Dr. Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist, brain specialist, and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. She is also the Director of Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and the bestselling author of “Here’s Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More.” Follow her on Twitter @DrUmaNaidoo.
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