Consider Your Diet in Honor of Mental Health Month

Dr. Clayton Lawrence, CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on overall wellness in an otherwise toxic world. (Always consult with your own physician before beginning any new diet/exercise routine).

Since 1949, May has been a month of raising awareness for mental health. Mental Health America is on a mission to promote the overall mental health of all Americans. With about 46.6 million adults experiencing mental illness (NIMH), it is important for communities to come together to create a world that recognizes, supports and removes the stigma from this overwhelming reality.

We know that things like exercise, getting plenty of sleep and eating well can have a positive effect on mental health, but what exactly does that mean? Here are a few foods (and other sources) that you can add to your regular meal prep to ensure that you’re getting the minerals, nutrients and vitamins that your body – and mind – need most. Remember, focus on eating a wide variety of foods that are as close to natural as possible – not processed or treated with chemicals.

Water

This essential drink can help prevent dehydration, which can lead to anxiety-provoking sensations, like sleepiness, dizziness and headaches.

Dark, leafy greens

Focus on foods that are high in folate or folic acids, like spinach or kale. When these levels get too low, some studies suggest patients may experience feelings of depression.

Sunlight

Many doctors will suggest that patients who suffer from sluggishness and depression during the winter months should find a way to sneak in even just a few minutes of sunshine each day. This important vitamin is best absorbed through the skin, but supplements and a glass of milk can offer a healthy dose, as well.

Salmon

Eating foods like fish, dark green veggies and olive oil can help you get enough of the inflammation reducing omega 3 essential fatty acids that can help fight diseases and other life-altering conditions, while offering a mood-stabilizing effect.

Chia seeds

Add these tiny seeds to bread, yogurt and salads for a healthy dose of calcium, magnesium, potassium and omega 3s.

Broccoli

Broccoli is another great way to get potassium and folate, while working to keep the digestive system functioning properly and encouraging the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

Eggs

Eggs are also an excellent source of Vitamin D and B12, which may help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

Berries

These sweet treats are packed with antioxidants, fiber and potassium, which can be added to cereal or yogurt (another food that is an excellent source of mood-boosting B vitamins).

Reduce/eliminate sugar 

Sugar has a negative effect on a protein in the body that is found in some who suffer from mental health conditions. In addition, the highs and lows of sugar levels throughout the day can make those who are prone to anxiety even more aware of body sensations that may raise red flags.