Best Brain Foods for Mental Health
Best Brain Foods for Mental Health
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any less true: you are what you eat. Outside of weight management, the foods you decide to eat have a profound impact on your brain health and mental state. For example, eating too much sugar can make you feel fatigued, and caffeine can worsen symptoms of anxiety and nervousness.
If you want to improve your brain health, the first place to start is your diet. Let’s take a look at the foods to avoid along with the best brain foods for better mental health.
Foods to Avoid
The following foods have been shown to be terrible for your brain health along with your cardiovascular health and weight management:
Processed Sugar: You know that it’s terrible for your weight, but sugar can also impair memory development and cognitive function. Studies show that a high-sugar diet negatively impacts brain function.
Trans-Fat: This artificially-produced fat is used in many processed foods and shelf-stable ingredients such as margarine and pre-made snack cakes. Studies show that trans fat can hurt memory development and increase the inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Artificial Sweeteners: While they help your favorite beverages to taste better without the calories, some artificial sweeteners are being linked to poor brain health. Studies found that aspartame in particular can disrupt the production of neurotransmitters and healthy brain cells.
Best Brain Foods
If you’re not on the best diet, that’s okay! The damage caused by the foods above is reversible when you follow a healthy, all-natural diet. Here are some of the best brain foods to start incorporating into your diet.
Antioxidant-Rich Foods: There’s no avoiding oxidative stress from our everyday lives, but there is something you can do about it: eat more antioxidants. Oxidative stress can cause cell damage and promote inflammation in the brain. Studies show that eating foods rich in antioxidants can prevent the damage caused by free radicals. Foods that contain plenty of antioxidants include:
- Berries: blueberries, goji berries, and strawberries
- Herbal teas: Green tea, ginger tea, and most whole leaf teas
- Chocolate: Dark chocolate (raw cacao is the best option)
- Fruits: Oranges, lemons, and apples
- Beans: Red beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans
Healthy Fatty Acids: Not to be confused with trans-fat, healthy fatty acids are found in all-natural sources such as salmon, coconut oil, and avocados. Several studies have found that healthy fats can significantly improve brain function and overall health.
Dark Leafy Greens: Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach contain a plethora of vitamins and minerals that have been linked to better brain function.
Nuts and Seeds: Containing plenty of healthy fats, nuts and seeds also have amino acids that can support brain health. What’s more, nuts and seeds have brain-friendly minerals such as zinc. We recommend eating more pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts.
Herbs: We throw some of the best brain-boosting foods into a pan or pot as seasoning, never realizing what it can do for our health. Herbs such as rosemary, turmeric, sage, ginseng, and lemon balm are all fantastic ways to improve brain health. Just be sure to buy the actual plants, not the chopped and dried options. You can make all of these herbs into a tea. We recommend putting a bit of black pepper in with turmeric to improve bioavailability.
Changes Come from Consistency
If you want to improve your mental health through your diet, it’s essential to be consistent. Everyone falls off track, but what is important is that you get back on as soon as you can.
Focus on eliminating one thing from your diet that is impacting your brain health. Slowly, start incorporating more healthy choices. Don’t rush yourself. Stay consistent and focus on your goal of better mental health.
(check out our Habit Changer Worksheet)
Dominic M.D. Tran, R. Frederick Westbrook, A high-fat high-sugar diet-induced impairment in place-recognition memory is reversible and training-dependent. Appetite, Volume 110, March 2017, pages 61-71
Neal D. Barnard, Anne E. Brunner, Ulka Agarwal, saturated and trans fats and dementia: a systemic review. Neurobiology of AgingVolume 35, Supplement 2, september 2014, pages 565-573
P Humphries, E Pretorius, H Naude, Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62, 451-462 (2008)