Having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body. Letting go of either one is going to impact the other negatively. Good mental health can be cultivated by making changes to your lifestyle and diet. Does that mean you can literally eat your way to a better mood?
Well… sort of.
While overeating “because you feel like it” is a big no-no, there are certain foods that have been proven to have mood-boosting properties. And not to worry, these aren’t crazy, exotic, or expensive foods either. These are very much the regular day-to-day variety of foods that we already eat. And you can turn them into easy, delicious meals as well.
The key is to have a balanced meal that is diverse in its benefits, from vitamins and minerals to protein and fiber – you’ll want to eat gut-healthy and brain-boosting foods throughout the day. Look for foods high in Omega 3, healthy fats, iron, magnesium, vitamins B, C, and D, and selenium for a positive effect on your mental health. These will also help keep your energy levels up and maintain a top-notch immune system.
It’s also important to cut back on sugar, caffeine, and unhealthy snacking at the same time. You don’t want to undo all the good you’re doing by eating fresh and healthy dishes at mealtime by gorging on fried, fatty, or processed foods while snacking.
We’ve outlined a simple meal plan of dishes that fit in the morning, afternoon, or night made using mental health-boosting ingredients. Check them out!
Starting your day off with the right foods is essential to starting your day off with the right mindset. You’ll want to look for foods that give you energy throughout the day.
– Poached Eggs on Toast with Avocado
Eggs and avocado are an unbeatable combination for breakfast! You get plenty of protein and vitamin D from the eggs, while both of these super foods contain Omega 3, healthy fats, vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium. Together, these provide you with fullness, energy, and boost your mood to boot.
You can also add a piece of grainy wholemeal toast or sourdough bread. These are the ideal form of carbs for the morning since they are low-GI, meaning they’ll give you long-lasting energy as well as fiber.
If you are someone who’s always rushing out the door (or don’t like avocados), eggs on their own are good enough too. Whip up a quick omelet or scrambled eggs on a piece of toast, or you could even pre-boil your eggs for breakfast.
– Nutty Granola with Greek Yogurt
Made with oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, granola is a quick and easy low-GI breakfast that is also great for mental health. You can eat your granola by itself or with some milk, yogurt, berries, fruit, etc. And it’s so easy because you can buy it pre-made or make a whole batch at one go according to your preferences. What’s more, granola can also be a great afternoon snack!
One thing to be careful about if you’re going for the store-bought kind, though, is to ensure it doesn’t have too much added sugar. So check the ingredients of the brand you purchase.
2. Morning Snacks
Are you someone who gets that mid-morning craving for a pick-me-up? Be prepared with healthy snacks, so you can avoid grabbing something of conveniences like a sugary muffin or potato chips.
You should keep the amount of sugar in your diet to a minimum if you are concerned about mental health, certain fruits high in sugar like grapes and pineapple are best saved for a special treat. Berries, on the other hand, are low in sugar and high in vitamin C, great for boosting mood, energy, and immunity as they are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
You can also stock up on frozen berries so you always have some on hand, either for snacking, adding into smoothies, or spooned on top of a healthy dessert as they go all mushy when warmed up in the microwave.
Nuts are the perfect foods for snacking because not only are they easy to stock up and store, they’re also full of healthy fats! Almonds, and especially walnuts, contain the highest concentration of omega 3, which is important for your overall health – body, and mind.
What’s more is that you can snack on nuts by themselves, or mix them up with some dark chocolate, dried fruits, or even roast them with herbs and spice for a savory treat.
The best lunches are nutritious and filling while also being simple and of course, delicious!
– Quinoa or Brown Rice Salads
As we mentioned already, low-GI foods facilitate a slow energy burn, as well as helping maintain stable blood sugar levels. This is important for mental health as energy highs and crashes certainly won’t help your mood.
This makes foods like brown rice and quinoa the perfect carb for lunch. Not only are they filling, but they also go really well with a variety of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats like cheese and olive oil.
– Super Soups
Soup for lunch? Sounds boring, but when you really explore all the amazing options the humble soup has to offer, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Start with your favorite soups, then experiment with different textures, flavors, cuisines, and ingredients so that you can discover new favorites.
Not only do soups open up a world of flavor, but they also give you the opportunity to add healthy, nutritious ingredients into your meal in an all-in-one package. You can pack them with vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, gut-friendly ingredients, and so much more. A lunch like that is sure to keep you satiated for the rest of the day!
4. Afternoon Snacks
Put that sugary candy bar away, and pick up one of these healthy mind-friendly treats instead!
– Low-Carb Treats
It’s often these afternoon cravings that bring our healthy diets to a crashing stop. That’s why preparation is key! Having pre-made treats that are low in carb and sugar will help you avoid running to the vending machine for that candy bar.
To be clear, a healthy snack doesn’t have to be boring either. You can browse hundreds of recipes for low-sugar, high-protein snacks online. And it’s easy to customize them and add things like nuts and cacao as well. If you have a sweet tooth, you can also look for recipes that use stevia.
Smoothies are like soup – but the quicker and sweeter version! If you’re at home, or your office has a blender, you can whip one up in mere minutes. And the best part is you can experiment with the ingredients and comes up with new delicious concoctions every day. Try adding nuts, fruit, yogurt, and even vegetables into your afternoon smoothie. Superfoods like cacao, peanut butter, and chia also work really well.
Dinner is another time of day where people tend to fail their diets. It can be tempting to just order a pizza at the end of a tiring day, but don’t! Making a satisfying home-cooked dinner doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. The best dinners are always simple and quick.
– Salmon & Rainbow Salad
Salmon, or any oily fish for that matter (tuna, mackerel, anchovies), is the perfect meal to end your day. These fish are high in protein and omega 3s, which we know to be great for brain and heart health. Salmon also has a high content of selenium and B vitamins, which helps stabilize blood sugar and calms your energy, so you can get a good night’s sleep as well.
You can pair salmon with plenty of fresh veggies and get a double dose of mental health-boosting nutrients, or even make a dip or sauce that’s slightly naughty like an aioli, pesto, or cheese sauce.
– Chicken Tray Bake
Tray bakes are the ultimate lazy day meal, and they can be super delicious too! Raid your fridge for a rainbow of vegetables, chop ‘em up, throw them in a tray with some chicken breast, season everything with oil, salt, and pepper and you’ve got dinner sorted in under 30 minutes!
Chicken is high in protein and low in saturated fat, making it the perfect protein for night time. You can also switch it up with turkey meat, which is rich in tryptophan that helps serotonin production in the gut. Finish off your tray bake with some soft cheese, nuts, and leafy greens to bring the nutrition level of your tray bake up.
6. Bringing it All Together
Fad diets and starving yourself doesn’t work, but many of us are tempted by the apparently “quick results” that we fall prey to them time and time again. Eating good food and exercising is an important part of maintaining a healthy body and mind, and it’s been proven that eating certain foods can boost your mental health as well.
– Help you sleep better
– Improve your overall mood
– Boost productivity and help you concentrate
– Increase and stabilize energy levels
– Reduce stress
– Stabilize blood sugar levels
This is especially important for those that struggle with or have been diagnosed with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Psychologists often fail to mention how big a role nutrition plays in such issues, but good food is far better medicine than any pill that a doctor can prescribe to you.
Luckily, in the age of the internet and information, there’s plenty you can learn yourself. Bring the tips we learned in this article into your daily life and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your physical and mental well-being is enhanced.