food for thought

food for brain health

In yet another case of mums being right, it seems that her warning of “you are what you eat” as you shamelessly scoffed down that last slice of pizza actually has some strong scientific support. In fact,years of scientific evidence has shown that the foods that we eat can actually have substantial effects on our bodily and mental functions. So, what foods can help improve your mood and ward off depression and other mental health issues?

Butternut squash

      • One of the most overlooked health foods available today is butternut squash which is jam-packed with nutrients and vitamins. Just 150g contains as much as 52% of your RDA for vitamin C (important for your immune system) as well as 15% of your RDA for magnesium and 17% for potassium [1] .
        • Magnesium is vital for your brain chemistry as deficiencies can lead to neuron damage which can cause depression and can lead to anxiety when combined with too much calcium. In fact, both magnesium [1] and potassium [3,4] have been shown to be effective in treating depression and mood disturbances.

Sweet potato

          • In addition to being incredibly tasty and potassium laden, one average baked sweet potato also contains an incredible 214% of our daily vitamin A [1] , 52% of our daily vitamin C and a lot of beta carotene which help reduce cell damage, aging, and dysfunction in the brain [6] .
          • As well as this, it has loads of vitamin B12 and folic acid which have both been suggested as a treatment for depression and tension as deficits in both of these correlate with depression [5] .

Protein heavy foods

            • Just like sweet potato; beef, chicken, and pork are very high in vitamin B as well as this, they also contain a lot of protein which is vital in stimulating the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which responsible for lifting your mood.
            • Additional good sources of protein include Greek yoghurt, other meats, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils.


                  • As well as containing a lot of protein, turkey is a great source of tryptophan too which is the direct precursor to serotonin [7] which boosts mood and is also the reason why your Grandad sleeps for the whole of Christmas day as spikes of serotonin lead to increases of melatonin - the sleep hormone.

Whole wheat carbs

                    • Whole wheat (like brown rice, brown bread, and brown pasta) are processed far easier than white alternatives and they release energy much slower; rather than giving an initial surge of energy followed by an insulin rush which can leave you feeling tired [1] .
                    • If eaten with tryptophan heavy foods like turkey, chicken, milk, cheese, or nuts, carbohydrates can actually help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier and make it far more effective at boosting your mood [7] , so you’re free to grab a couple extra chips with your dinner.

Oily fish

                      • Salmon and other omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) rich foods like tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are well known for being incredible at boosting cognitive functions [8] .
                      • And amazingly, not only have EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce the symptoms of ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia [9] , bipolar, and major depressive disorder [8] , they have also shown promise at reducing the effects of schizophrenia and of being able to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease [9] .

Turmeric and ginger

                        • Turmeric and ginger both contain curcumin which helps reduce the oxidation of the brain cells which has been linked with depression [10, 11] . In studies with mice, curcumin has even been shown to be more potent than the active component of the popular antidepressant Prozac [10] and has been suggested as treatment for anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autism spectrum disorders [11] .

If you’ve managed to digest (pardon the pun) all this information, try adding a few of these foods into your diet and see if you notice a difference, and feel free to add any other diet suggestions into the comments box.

  1. sanity-break/fall-foods-i- eatimprove-my- mood/?xid=nl_EverydayHealthLivingWithDepression_20151109
  3. of-potassium/
  4. Susan J. Torres et al Dietary electrolytes are related to mood British Journal of Nutrition / Volume 100 / Issue 05 / November 2008, pp 1038-1045
  5. Alec Coppen Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12 Journal of Psychopharmacology Jan 2005 vol 19 59-65
  9. Danielle Swanson et al Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life Journal of Advanced Nutrition January 2012 volume 3 1-7
  11.  Fernanda Neutzling Kaufmann et al Curcumin in depressive disorders: An overview of potential mechanisms, preclinical and clinical findings European Journal of Pharmacology Volume 784, 5 August 2016, Pages 192–198

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