Did you know that most of the energy you use in a day is consumed by brain activity? When you think about this, it’s not surprising that what you eat has a profound effect on the way your brain works—particularly in the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional capacities. In fact, there is a direct connection between your diet and how you feel.
It may not come as a huge surprise that junk food like chips, candy, and fried foods don’t offer much nourishment to your brain, so they don’t give you a mental boost. On the other hand, foods that are nutrient-rich, such as lean proteins and whole grains, do have a positive effect on your mental health. Interestingly, the right foods for your mental health can vary with age—for example, red meat and poultry are most beneficial for young adults—but there are some basic guidelines to use to select a mental health friendly diet that can literally change the way you think about eating (and everything else).
Which foods you should eat
Selecting the right foods for your mental health is easy, because these are often the same foods that you’ll eat for a healthy body. Selections like fatty fish, whole grains, fresh vegetables, and grass-fed beef are all part of a recipe for sound mental health. In addition, research has shown that probiotics can promote mental health, so you might incorporate more fermented foods like yogurt containing natural bacteria, kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles.
Which foods you should avoid
Some people tout the benefits of a grain-free, dairy-free, or meat-free diet, but these restrictions are not a necessity for your mental wellness. What you should definitely avoid is processed foods, including those that contain more processed grains, such as white flour and pasta. Foods that contain excessive amounts of sugar can also take a toll on your cognitive abilities, since they are likely to cause an insulin spike and then crash.