Changing our dinner tables can make an impact on our mental health. For example, consuming lower amounts of saturated fat, added sugar, and processed foods while increasing vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seafood, fermented foods and brain healthy fats have promising results on mental health. Check out the brain-healthy nutrients to put on your mental health supporting plate.
Antioxidants are found in plant-based foods. They repair and protect brain cells from damage caused by free radicals. Think of antioxidants as protectors. If your brain is left unprotected, these free radicals damage neurons leading to poor brain functioning. Studies have found those with depression have lower levels of these antioxidants – carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It’s best to get a variety of these antioxidants to give your brain the best equipped army against free radical invaders. Nuts, berries, bell peppers, carrots, grapefruit, leafy greens, and oranges are all great options. In addition, poor moods and depression increase inflammation in our brain and antioxidants also help fight this damaging inflammation. Resveratrol in grapes, lycopene in tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and apricot, anthocyanins in blueberries and other strong antioxidant containing fruits and veggies such as apples, onions, cherries, citrus fruits, and leafy vegetables all provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits for the brain.
The building blocks of protein are amino acids. These amino acids make the neurotransmitters in our brain. For example, the amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine, make our feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. Getting adequate protein throughout the day is necessary to synthesize these amino acids.
Fruit and vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables help boost our mood. When we eat foods that are healthy, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment associated with that action. Especially for children, celebrating their consumption of fruits and vegetables during family meals will improve self-esteem and make them more likely to repeat it during the next family dinner. It’s no wonder that having more family meals has been shown to increase fruit and vegetable consumption!
Help the body metabolize glucose for energy and help make the brain’s neurotransmitters. Beans and other legumes are great sources along with meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Did you know that half your brain is made up of fat? Our brain especially loves omega-3 fatty acids. They help build healthy brain and nerve cells. Omega-3s also help to reduce blood pressure which is good for the brain and body. The benefits of omega-3 extend throughout our entire lives. From brain development during infancy through adolescence, to protection against heart disease and dementia later in life. The omega-3s help your brain cells “talk” to each improving brain function, focus, and mood.
There are many players in our gut – good bacteria, bad bacteria, neurotransmitters, immunity, and neurons. All these players communicate and work together. If the good bacteria in your gut get outrun with bad bacteria, the neurons in your gut will let your brain know it’s not happy, affecting your brain’s mood status. In fact, the bacteria in our gut help produce some important neurotransmitters like serotonin, and therefore impact our mental health. Diet is one of the largest contributors to a healthy and happy gut. Eating foods like Kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt, and high fiber foods (probiotics and prebiotics) help keep our guts and our minds happy.
Recipes for a Mental Health Supporting Plate
Pressure Cooker Oatmeal
- 2 ½ cups Full Circle Almond Milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 cup steel-cut oats
- ¼ cup Our Family Maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp Our Family Cinnamon
Optional toppings: canned pumpkin, nut butters, chia seeds, flaxseeds, fresh berries, almonds, walnuts, cocoa nibs, nonfat Greek yogurt, extra almond milk.
Directions: combine all ingredients in pressure cooker. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Serve with additional toppings.
- 1 can Our Family Wild Pink Salmon
- ¼ cup Our Family cooked oatmeal
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Our Family paprika
- 1 tsp Our Family cumin
- 1 tsp Our Family garlic
- 1 tsp Our Family onion powder
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ to ½ cup water (until desired consistency)
- ½ cup Our Family Mayonnaise
- ½ cup Our Family Greek yogurt
- 1 diced jalapeño
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp paprika
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
Pre-heat oven to 350°F
Drain, remove the skin and the large bones from the canned salmon, and place in a food processor. Add the cooked oatmeal (or another grain) and remaining seasonings. Add water until a thick malleable consistency.
Form into patties, each about ½ inch thick.
Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
Special sauce: mix the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, jalapeño, cumin, paprika, and fresh cilantro. Dollop the sauce on top of the salmon patties prior to serving.