Wellness Family Dentistry

Eat Your Way to Optimal Mental Health

June 29, 2022
Posted By: Magna Porterfield, PhD (Psychologist)
Do you know that what you eat can affect your overall mental health and well-being? There is increasing scientific evidence to support this. In my work as a psychologist, I have seen that people who make positive changes in their diet experience significant improvements in their mental health.  This may include reduced anxiety, enhanced mood, less anger and irritability, increased ability to cope with the adversities of life, feeling more happy, and the list goes on.
What is the best diet for optimal mental and emotional health? Opinions on this may differ. The perspective that I have used in my work with individuals is that whole, plant-based foods are the most beneficial.  In general, any of the foods that fall in this category (whole and plant-based) can have a very positive effect on mental and emotional functioning. However, there are some specific ones that are worth highlighting.
These foods are as follows:
The prebiotic fiber found in whole grain oats has been linked to controlling mood swings and irritability. Oats also have small amounts of avenin, a substance that has mild sedative effects.
Walnuts have been found to increase energy levels, concentration and even optimism among those who consume them. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which has been found to stabilize and calm mood. It is important to add, however, that nuts must be used moderately because too much of it can increase weight.
Dark leafy green vegetables:
These veggies are full of magnesium which can help people to feel calmer and improves mood. They also have nutrients that can help reduce mental decline (which is related to dementia).
Whole grains:
These grains include foods such as brown rice, millet, barley, oatmeal, whole wheat products, etc. They are packed with B vitamins and complex carbohydrates which are important for balancing the nervous system, thus enhancing overall mental health.
Legumes (which include beans and peas) are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which enables the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurochemical in the brain that is believed to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood. Legumes are also a great source of magnesium, which is connected to greater mental well-being. 
These simple foods can greatly enhance mental and emotional health.  For example, pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, previously mentioned as important for the production of serotonin. Sunflower seeds have been found to improve mood and boost energy.  And flax seeds, because they are rich in omega-3, can help with stabilizing mood.
These foods are just some of the many whole, plant-based foods that can be beneficial for optimal mental/emotional health. If you would like to improve your overall psychological functioning, why not consider incorporating these foods into your diet. Try it and see what happens. You may be amazed at the results!
Photo by: Karolina Grabowska
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