• Viktorija Sbrodova

Nutrition for a healthy mind

You probably heard the phrase “You are what you eat”. It might not be the most accurate wording, but there’s a whole lot of scientific studies proving that what we put on our plates affects how we feel, think, and communicate with the world. Let’s take a look at some of the foods that are believed to have a positive impact on our response to stress and our mental health altogether.


Oats


Oatmeal is one of the greatest sources of healthy carbs. Scientists that specialise in nutrition say that oats’ complex carbohydrates stimulate the production of serotonin, which makes it one of the best foods to start the day with. Studies show that low levels of serotonin are related to low mood and cognitive decline. Just like your mobile phone, serotonin levels need to be recharged. A boost of serotonin in the morning will reduce stress throughout the day. If hot porridge is not your favourite, you could try having overnight oats as breakfast. Eating oats is also linked to the treatment of insomnia, a modern-day disease that affects every other person in big cities. Make oats an addition to your diet if you’re looking for stress relief with a positive effect on your sleep.


Fatty fish


The ‘Eatwell plate’ designed by the NHS makes fatty fish an essential element of our diet. Why is that? Because Omega 3 is essential fatty acid - good, essential fats. Quite simply, they are located in the membrane of each brain cell and are, in a sense, the building block of the cells. It is even difficult to list how many good qualities they have. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, protect cognitive function, improve the health of both brain and eyes (help maintain a healthy retina), and some studies have also shown it helps to reduce anxiety in people with different health problems. Omega-3 also strengthens the immune system, promotes metabolic processes, improves the condition of the skin, nails and hair, has a beneficial effect on joint health, helps maintain a normal weight and does much more valuable.

And if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, your alternative to fatty fish will be chia seeds, flaxseeds, seaweed and algae, and some sorts of nuts.


Dark chocolate


One of the most delicious comfort foods has its health benefits, too. Studies on highly stressed people have shown that daily consumption of a medium-sized dark chocolate bar for two weeks significantly reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the "fight or flight" hormones - catecholamines.

Dark chocolate is also rich in fibre and antioxidants, which helps the cells avoid damage from free radicals. Antioxidants are known to reduce the risk of heart-related diseases, have a positive effect on blood flow and lower blood pressure. But be careful with this one, as it is often high in sugars that are notorious for other health problems.


Turmeric


Turmeric is the source of curcumin. Adding turmeric to meals has been shown to promote resilience to chronic stress. A study has shown that curcumin administered during exposure to stress can be safely and effectively used as a therapeutic agent to prevent the development of social withdrawal and anxiety in people who are susceptible to stress.




Healthy microbiome = healthy gut = healthy mind

Yoghurt


Yoghurt is a natural source of probiotic cultures that helps to maintain good bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Casei. And balanced gut microbiome is vital for the health and strength of our digestive tracts. Just like chocolate, although the food itself is healthy, additional sugars may neutralise its effects. So, when choosing the yoghurt in the supermarket, go with the one that has fewer sugars and artificial sweeteners. A safe choice will be Greek yoghurt or kefir.



Sauerkraut & kimchi


Fermented foods just like yoghurt help us balance our gut microbiome.

For example, kimchi is a fermented, probiotic-filled dish, with cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage and garlic. It is rich in vitamins and has been known to protect us from various cancers.

Sauerkraut is very similar to kimchi, in the sense that it is fermented cabbage, however, the recipes differ in the method and spices used.



Green tea


Green tea is believed to be a natural stress relief due to the amino acid found in it, L-theanine (L-THE). L-Theanine is associated with several health benefits, including improvements in mood, cognition and a reduction of stress and anxiety-like symptoms. The tea's calming effects were also linked to a change in dopamine D1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT1A. Both of those receptors are found in the central nervous system and are closely related to anxiety.



 
RECIPES
 

Overnight oats



What you'll need:


rolled oats

yoghurt

maple syrup/honey

chia seeds/flaxseeds

berries of your choice


How to make it:


Prepare a medium-size jar.

Mix the oats, syrup, seeds and yoghurt in it.

Leave in the fridge overnight.

Before eating add some berries, and enjoy!


 

Check out these other recipes for a healthy diet


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