Being a depression survivor in a country where such things are kept under wraps in the fear of losing respect in society, I have realized early in my life the need to take care of mental health as much as we do for our physical selves.
One of the most obvious, yet under-stated factor in the development of major trends in mental health is the role of nutrition. Lots of scientific studies indicate that food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Think about it. Your brain is always “on.” It takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses — it works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat — and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mental health.
Here are some tips which will keep your mental health in check:-
1. Be High on Vegetables
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which governs how you feel, sleep and behave throughout the day. 95% of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and hence is governed by the foods you eat. Research shows that “Traditional diets” are high on good bacteria (which promotes production of serotonin) as compared to “Western Diet”. Indian traditional diets include a lot of good bacteria through vegetables and fruits.
Even if you are having a hectic day, just make sure than one of the diets in your day (preferably lunch) are heavy in vegetables. Keep taking fruits along with each meal. It is advisable to include at least one-two fruits in your breakfast menu.
2. Avoid refined foods
Processed sugars, processed grains and refined foods are low in essential nutrients which are crucial in generating serotonin for your brain. Amidst our crazy lifestyles, it is lucrative to grab something “quick” from fast food outlets to fill our stomach. While it saves the need in the short term, getting addicted to such diets have serious mental implications in the long run.
Carry a healthy snack, home cooked food or simply opt for full course meal, during such times. You can also try myDaily meal replacement shake — great for keeping your nutrients in check when you don’t have time to have a proper long meal.
3. Increase your protein intake
The relation between protein and overall health — both physical and mental has been researched and proved all through the years. It is the backbone of all metabolic activities which govern your mood. Irrespective of whether you are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, make sure to have rich protein foods everyday. It comes easy to non-veg diets which regularly have eggs, chicken, fish, seafood etc. Nevertheless, we have more than enough veg menu items with high protein content like pulses, rajma, lentils, beans, chickpeas etc. You can go through this blog of ours which speaks about Indian vegetarian protein rich foods.
Make sure to include at least two of the above items in lunch and dinner menu regularly.
4. Say no to processed sugars
Let’s agree — we cannot live without desserts. Kuch meetha ho jaaye has been our weakness after every meal — specially during weekends.While it is important to indulge in your sweet world, it does no harm in making sure that you have it in proper quantities at regular intervals. Make your desserts in gluten free. Making home cooked desserts with maple syrup, honey, dates, coconut satisfy your sweet buds while keeping your health in check.
5. Do you take nuts regularly?
Omega — 3 fatty acid is the next highest ingredient in your food which directly affects your mood and mental wellness. Some of the key sources are fish, chicken, flax seeds, chia seeds, plant oils (soybean oil), sprouts, walnuts, leafy vegetables like spinach, cauliflower and fruits like melons and pomegranates.
Now a days, lots of adults in metropolitan cities are diagnosed with omega-3 deficiency due to which they have symptoms of depression, anxiety and heart problems. In severe cases, they also lead to Alzheimer’s and severe heart disorders. It is better to keep such crucial components a daily part of your dietary requirements than to realize and make amends later.
Note: This post was written by one of our existing user. She has been a a fighter and a strong advocate for importance of mental health. This is based on her own experience around depression and how she overcame it, using a balance of positivity, optimism, and healthy habits. She’s also writing for LiveLoveLaugh foundation. You can check it here.
More power to her.