We now know that diet may be just as important to mental health as it is to physical health, so it comes as no surprise to learn that what we eat ― and how we do it ― has huge implications. And it’s not just about eating healthily. There are other ways that foods can boost your mental health. Check them out:
1. Bake for others and reap psychological benefits.
Baking, especially when it’s done for others, can be accompanied with a host of psychological benefits. Not only is baking a productive form of self expression, but the activity is also a practice of mindfulness. And baking for others is an altruistic act, which just feels good.
2. Load up on foods that will fuel you with energy. Some foods will energize your body and make you feel good. They’re often loaded with iron, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Think legumes, nuts and seeds. Those are the foods you want to incorporate into your daily diet. If you eat a diet that energizes you, you’re more likely to have the energy to be active, which will also boost your mood ― and it all becomes a positive cycle.
3. Keep away from sugary foods. You’ll never believe what sugar does to your brain. Not only does eating sugar-rich foods intensify your craving for more sugar, but it can also contribute to depression and anxiety. When your blood sugar drops ― which happens after we eat sugar-laden foods ― it can heighten moody or anxious feelings.
4. Eat foods that will help you get a better night’s sleep. Some foods will disrupt your sleep ― like steak or chili ― and others will actually help you sleep better. Since we know that a good night’s sleep does wonders on our mental and emotional state, it’s only natural to help that along with healthy foods. Look for foods like brown rice, which contains the amino acid GABA (it acts as a natural Ambien), or foods that release melatonin, like cherries.
5. Consider culinary art therapy for its mental benefits. Cooking can be used as a form of therapy. The process of putting a meal together is thoughtful ― it requires attention and intention, and it focuses your mind on a tangible task while hopefully muting out the noise of the busy world around us. There are experts who specialize in just this kind of therapy out there, you just have to know to look for it.
There you have it, the many different healing powers of food ― way beyond the classic chicken soup for a cold remedy.