Mental health is nothing to make light of – many people suffer from depression and anxiety, as well as less common but just as severe disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
While many people seek to remedy their mental health situations with pills, there are also natural ways to address the problem.
Some of these natural remedies are meant to be used in conjunction with medication; it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about potential natural remedies in addition to pharmaceutical medications.
Many people have justifiable concerns about the long-term side effects of mood-altering medications; medications like Prozac, for example, can cause sexual dysfunction, nausea, headaches, and increased sweating(1) – some long-term patients also report and intermittent ringing in their ears. Then there’s the matter of dependency; while antidepressants like Prozac are not considered addictive, they do make users dependent, making it difficult for patients to simply stop taking them whenever they want.
There is mounting evidence that the way we eat can have a real impact on our mental health. As we come to understand more about the nuances of how our bodies work, we understand more about the delicate balance of chemicals and bacteria that make up our brains and stomachs, and the links between them. The following foods have been shown to be helpful with managing mental health concerns:
1. Sweet Potatoes
One of the symptoms of vitamin B deficiency is depression, which is why getting vitamin-rich foods in your diet is important. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin B as well as other vitamins(2). Sweet potatoes also contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid which helps prevent anxiety and depression.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, which are great for your brain. They also contain B vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Flax And Chia Seeds
These small seeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can help alleviate depression(3). One review states that: “Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to be more effective than placebo for depression in both adults and children in small controlled studies and in an open study of bipolar depression.”(4)
4. Gluten-Free Oats
Oats are great for you, but for optimal brain health it’s best to choose gluten-free. There have been numerous studies linking gluten to depression(5).
5. Fermented Foods
Promoting good gut health is essential in promoting good overall mental health – after all, the gut is where our body produces most of its serotonin(6). Yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods help to promote excellent diversity among your gut bacteria.
Leafy green vegetables are great for depression – high in magnesium, iron, and B vitamins, dark leafy greens can help stabilize your blood pressure, reduce cravings for sugary foods which can worsen your depression by causing blood sugar spikes, and improve blood flow to the brain. One study found that individuals whose diets were rich in leafy greens had lower rates of depression in middle age than those whose diets consisted of processed and fast foods(7).