The food we eat plays a big role in the way we think, feel, and perform. It can play an important role in determining our overall mood, memory, concentration, and outlook on life. That’s why it’s a good idea to focus on eating a wide variety of plant foods every day to ensure you are getting in as many nutrients as possible. Whether you want to improve your overall health, mental state, or cognitive ability, paying attention to your diet and eating with intention can really pay off. When you remove harmful, processed foods from your diet and instead fuel your body with the whole plant foods that it needs, it will begin to function optimally.
Let’s take a look at specific foods that promote optimal brain health and boost your mood:
Bananas are great for enhancing your mood and activating the feel-good chemicals in your brain. They contain an amino acid called Tryptophan, which is essential in humans. This means that the body cannot create it on its own and it must be consumed in our diet. It helps our body produce serotonin, improves our sleep quality, and helps us regulate our intake of food. Bananas also contain potassium and provide a good amount of vitamin B-6 and fiber.
Blueberries are one of the most nutrient-dense berries, containing fiber, Vitamin C, K, and manganese, among others. Research has also shown that they can increase antioxidant levels in your body. Because of their high antioxidant levels, they can neutralize some of the free radicals that potentially damage your DNA. The antioxidants may also affect areas of your brain that are responsible for brain function, and may delay mental decline.
Not only does dark chocolate taste amazing, but it also has some amazing benefits for our brain. Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive and anxiety symptoms. One study showed that “people who ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70% reduced odds of reporting depressive symptoms than those who did not eat chocolate.” This is because “Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator implicated in mood regulation.”
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids consist of three acids: a-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plants, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are essential in our bodies and have been known to have a strong connection with relieving anxiety. One study has shown that consuming high dosage Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements may dramatically decrease anxiety-related symptoms in those with a clinical diagnosis. Plant-based sources include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, edamame, seaweed, and algae.
Not only do avocados taste delicious, but they are incredibly nutritious and contain a big variety of nutrients. They are high in Vitamin K, C, B5, B6, E, folate, and potassium. It also contains smaller amounts of manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. The majority of the fat in an avocado is oleic acid, which is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid that helps protect the cells in your brain and reduces inflammation.
Tomatoes can do wonders for mental health because they are rich in the antioxidant lycopene. Not only does this give them their color, but it helps protect against cell damage. In one study, “Researchers assessed the mental health and dietary habits of 986 Japanese people aged over 70 years. They found that those who reported eating tomatoes two to six times a week were 46% less likely to report mild or severe symptoms of depression than those who said they ate tomatoes less than once a week.”
Dark green leafy vegetables
Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, chard, arugula, and broccoli are rich in vitamin K, beta carotene, and folate. These nutrients do wonders for brain health and may even help slow cognitive decline. In addition, dark leafy greens contain the compound chlorophyll—the pigment that makes plants green, which contains magnesium and has been shown to help reduce anxiety.
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