JAN 4, 2024
Nourishing the Mind: Delicious Foods for Boosting Mental Health
Discover foods that will boost your mental health, as well as five easy, mood- enhancing recipes for a healthier mind and body.
Read time: 6 minutes
Mental health is important – you don’t need to be a genius to know that. And while therapy, exercise, and meditation are often discussed, the impact of our diet on mental health is sometimes overlooked. What if I told you that the foods you eat could significantly influence your mood, energy levels, and cognitive function? Well.. they can. So let’s talk about the fascinating world of brain- boosting foods and even share some exciting recipes to get you started.
Brain-Boosting Nutrients and Their Sources
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain health, playing a crucial role in cognitive functions and emotional wellbeing. Rich sources include fatty fish like salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Incorporating these into your diet can support brain cell structure and promote a balanced mood.
Our brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress, which contributes to aging and cognitive decline. Antioxidants in berries, nuts, and dark chocolate can combat this. Blueberries, for instance, are not just delicious but also packed with these protective compounds.
B vitamins, especially B12, B6, and folic acid, are really important for energy production and efficient functioning of the brain. Foods like spinach, asparagus, and whole grains, along with dairy and poultry, are excellent sources.
Amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which regulates mood. Tryptophan, found in turkey, eggs, and dairy, is a precursor to serotonin, often associated with a calming effect.
Food and Mood - Understanding the Connection
A balanced diet rich in the above nutrients can stabilize blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and provide essential building blocks for brain chemicals. And that’s all great news but they also improve mental health. But it’s not just about the individual nutrients alone, it’s also how we consume them and our overall dietary pattern that matters. So let’s talk about ways to incorporate these nutrients in a practical way – with a range of recipes!
Recipes for Mental Wellbeing
Omega-3 Rich Salmon Salad
Combine grilled salmon with mixed greens, avocado, and a sprinkle of walnuts. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice for a simple, brain-healthy meal.
- 1 salmon fillet (about 6 oz)
- Mixed greens (such as spinach, arugula, and lettuce)
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- A handful of walnuts
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your grill or skillet over medium heat.
- Season the salmon fillet with salt and pepper.
- Grill the salmon for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your liking.
- In a large bowl, toss the mixed greens.
- Add the sliced avocado and walnuts to the greens.
- Once the salmon is cooked, let it cool for a few minutes, then flake it into large pieces.
- Add the salmon to the salad.
- Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the salad as a dressing.
- Toss everything gently to combine.
- Season with additional salt and pepper if needed and serve.
Berry and Nut Antioxidant Smoothie
Blend a mix of berries, a banana, almond milk, and a handful of almonds. This antioxidant-rich smoothie is perfect for a quick breakfast or snack.
- 1 cup mixed berries (like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- 1 banana
- 1 cup almond milk (or any other milk of your choice)
- A handful of almonds
- Place the mixed berries, banana, and almonds in a dependable and powerful blender.
- Add the almond milk to the blender.
- Blend until smooth. If the smoothie is too thick, add more milk to reach your desired consistency.
- If you have a PROMiXX blender (and you should), detach the blade, secure the lip and enjoy your delicious smoothie.
Whole Grain and Greens Buddha Bowl
Layer cooked quinoa, steamed broccoli, spinach, and a boiled egg. Drizzle with a tahini dressing for a meal rich in B vitamins and protein.
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup steamed broccoli florets
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
- 1 boiled egg, sliced
- Tahini dressing (you can use store-bought or make your own by mixing tahini, lemon juice, water, and salt)
- Prepare the quinoa according to package instructions and set aside.
- Steam the broccoli florets until tender.
- Arrange the cooked quinoa at the bottom of a bowl.
- Add the steamed broccoli and fresh spinach leaves on top of the quinoa.
- Place the sliced boiled egg over the greens.
- Drizzle the tahini dressing over the bowl.
- Toss gently to combine all ingredients before serving.
Tofu Stir-Fry with Mixed Vegetables
Stir-fry tofu with colorful vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots in a light soy sauce. Tofu is a great source of tryptophan and pairs well with fiber-rich vegetables.
- 1 block of firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat.
- Add the tofu cubes to the skillet and fry until all sides are golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add the sliced bell pepper, broccoli florets, and carrot. Stir-fry until the vegetables are tender but still crisp.
- Add the fried tofu back into the skillet with the vegetables.
- Pour the soy sauce over the tofu and vegetables and stir to combine.
- Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Serve the stir-fry hot, either alone or with a side of rice or noodles.
Homemade Probiotic Yogurt Parfait
Layer homemade yogurt with granola and fresh fruits. Add a drizzle of honey for a touch of sweetness. This parfait is an excellent way to start your day with a probiotic boost.
- 1 cup homemade or store-bought yogurt
- 1⁄2 cup granola
- Fresh fruits (like berries, banana slices, or mango chunks)
- Honey for drizzling
- Spoon half of the yogurt into a glass or bowl.
- Add a layer of granola over the yogurt.
- Add a layer of your choice of fresh fruits.
- Repeat the layers with the remaining yogurt, granola, and fruits.
- Drizzle honey over the top layer for a touch of sweetness.
- Serve immediately and enjoy this nutritious and gut-friendly parfait!
When it comes to the potential in the kitchen, the connection between food and mental health is exciting. And by choosing foods rich in omega-3s, antioxidants, B vitamins, amino acids, and probiotics, you can support your brain health as well as your physical wellbeing. But of course, it’s important to remember, these dietary changes should complement other lifestyle practices and professional medical advice for optimal mental health. Don’t expect your eat your way to a better life – it's all about balance!
Written by Matthew Stogdon
Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.