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Eat these 5 foods to maximize your mental health

Eating can shift your mood, but what's at end of your fork matters more than you think

Imagine a world where the entire US population, every single individual of more than 320 million people, would be depressed. It would ruin businesses, the economy, relationships, and families.

Although this may not be the case for the country, this number is true to the world. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates there are 322 million people worldwide living with depression.

That’s so many unhappy people wasting this valuable time on Earth, that just by thinking of it gives me goosebumps.

That’s a lot of men and women, kids and adults sitting on their couch elbow-deep in the cookie jar or ice cream bucket, hoping sugar would temporarily blanket their pain and negative emotions

They are right about turning to food to shift their mood, because it may, in fact, make a big difference in how you feel. But it’s not the action of eating that matters, it’s what’s at the end of your fork.

Countless of studies have shown a link between gut health and mental well-being. If you keep the bacteria in your gut happy, they will keep you happy. It’s a win-win scenario that may be the best deal you’ll ever make.

Especially because one of the happy hormones, serotonin is a key neurotransmitter — a chemical messenger — between the gut and the brain. It plays an important role in regulating mood and anxiety, among other things such as sleep and appetite.

Patients diagnosed with depression or anxiety are often put on medication that increase serotonin production. There’re other, however, and rather delicious ways to combat those mood disorders.

A recently published meta-analysis of sixteen eligible randomized controlled trials with outcome data for 45,826 participants showed that dietary interventions hold promise as a novel intervention for reducing symptoms of depression across the population.

Eating nutrient-dense foods that are high in vitamins and essential minerals don’t only benefit you physically, but mentally as well.

Here’re five foods to include in your diet.

Berries

Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries contain a lot of antioxidants, which are the good soldiers that fight free radicals and oxidation in your body, which both create inflammation. An important antioxidant these super foods are rich in are polyphenols. These have a wide range of benefits from promoting normal blood pressure and brain health to being a prebiotic, increasing the ratio of good bacteria in your gut.

Wild-caught salmon

Fatty fish like salmon are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are one of the main building blocks of the more than 100 billion cells in our brain. Our body, however, does not make Omega-3s, so we must get them from our diet or vitamin supplements, such as fish oil. These fatty acids can cross the blood-brain barrier, an area that protects the brain from harmful chemicals in the blood that may injure the brain. Therefore, it can help improve brain function and lower inflammation in the brain to fight depression.

Dark chocolate

Yes! Chocolate made the list. It must be at least 70% dark though to make sure the benefits outweigh the downside. It still contains sugar, but as long as you eat them with moderation, you’ll only gain happy hormones and not unhappy calories. Dark chocolate boosts endorphin, the feel-good chemical, production, while reducing pain and stress. It’s a great source of antioxidants, flavonoids, magnesium and prebiotics, so it won’t only make you feel better but will fuel your good gut bacteria, decrease inflammation and cortisol, the stress hormone.

Dark leafy greens and beans

Spinach, kale and beans are high in folate, also known as folic acid and vitamin B9, a micronutrient associated with a decreased risk of depression. Patients with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia often show signs of folic acid deficiency. According to Mental Health America, folate has also been beneficial to treat mild cognitive impairment such as dementia. So, make sure to eat dark leafy greens not only to move the bathroom scale, but to maintain a healthy brain.

Avocado

This superfood is rich in a long list of nutrients and can’t really think of reason why you shouldn’t eat it daily. An avocado a day will keep your mood at bay. It contains tyrosine, an amino acid that stimulates the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that improves cognitive function, motivation, and makes us feel happy. Plus, avocados are also high in healthy monounsaturated fats which have been found to protect nerve cells in the brain, improve blood flow to the brain and are anti-inflammatory.

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