R U OK? Day is bringing mental health back into the spotlight, and with rates of anxiety and depression skyrocketing, it’s worth digging into the topic. That’s why we’ll be unpacking a few of the best foods to give your mental health a much-needed boost.
With record-breaking rates of mental health disorders around the world, R U OK? Day offers a much-needed look into the state of mental health in the country and around the globe. There are a few things you can do to check in on your loved ones if they’ve been acting a little differently lately – or even if they’re acting the same as they always do – mental health conditions are sneaky and often go unnoticed by friends and family, with many sufferers putting up a convincing front. Your friend may be smiling and laughing, the picture of mental health, but unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving. With a global estimated 284 million people suffering from anxiety and 264 million with depression, it’s a widespread issue with no sign of slowing down. So, it’s a good time to check in on your loved ones. Here’s what to do this R U OK? Day:
Check in: R U OK? Day is all about checking in with the people in your life to see how they’re coping, and letting them know that it’s safe to confide in you.
Engage in an activity together: Not everyone’s a big talker, so it can be supportive to simply be there. Take a friend out for a walk or a morning bike ride – plus, the endorphins will also make for a mood booster.
Listen: Sometimes people just need someone to listen, so this could be a good day to catch up with loved ones and offer an ear.
But those aren’t the only things that can make a difference – you and your loved ones can benefit from a brain-healthy diet. Here’s what to put on your plate.
The gut-brain link for mental health
Another beneficial way to take care of your mental health is to take care of your gut health – here’s why. Diets high in sugar are known to cause changes to our gut microbiome, with research finding it can lower microbial diversity. This then puts us at risk for infection and inflammation, which links back in to our mental health through the gut-brain link. This is because our gut shares those same neurotransmitters as our brain, giving our gut the well-deserved nickname of the “second brain”. Studies have found eating excess sugar causes higher levels of Proteobacteria, which indicates an unbalanced microbiome. The result is a greater risk for all manner of conditions, from metabolic syndrome and autoimmune conditions right down to mental health disorders.
But with Aussies throwing back around 15 teaspoons of added sugar per day, it’s bound to have an effect on our gut and brain function, putting us in the firing line for these mental health conditions. So, if you’re looking to form healthier habits and boost your mood, here are the foods to prioritise for better mental health:
Avocado is the king of healthy fats – this fruit is loaded with linoleic acid and monounsaturated fats, the former of which researchers say may help with the fat loss process. The latter helps balance blood sugars and prevent insulin resistance, according to studies. But that’s not all – the medium chain triglycerides you’ll find in avocados have been found to decrease appetite and curb sugar cravings, thus helping us eat healthier. When we cut out those sugar binges, our gut isn’t the only thing that notices – our brain does too. You’ll likely have more stable moods, less anxiety and more mental clarity.
Eggs are a protein, iron, vitamin B12 and omega 3-rich food source, putting them high on the mood-boosting food list. The omega 3 fatty acids in particular play an important role in mental health, with studies showing that these fats can reduce inflammation and improve our gut health, which then reduces the severity of mental health symptoms, along with reducing our risk for developing a range of conditions in the first place, including anxiety and depression. Omega 3 also provides a boost in:
- Brain function
- Mental clarity
- Memory function
The protein in eggs is also important for keeping our energy levels up and keeping our hormones in check, which is another factor in mental health.
These nuts are packed with healthy fats – including omega 3s, which are essential for brain function. Without this, we’re vulnerable to inflammation, low mood and gut problems, which all lead back to poor mental health. A serve of walnuts also packs a hefty dose of protein, which has been found to balance our blood sugars and satiety hormones – both of which are integral to preventing mental health issues. When our hormones are out of whack, a plummeting mood may be one of the first signs that something is amiss.
Yoghurt, especially Greek and natural yoghurt varieties, are rich in protein, calcium and vitamin K, but they also happen to boast one of the best gut-boosting ingredients: probiotics. This fermented food has billions of healthy gut bacteria that can help tip the balance into your favour. But make sure your brand doesn’t sneak in any added sugars! Give the flavoured varieties a miss and opt for Greek yoghurt or a plain, natural yoghurt.
Hemp is a heart-healthy seed, packed with protein, iron and omega 3s – all of which we know are the key elements of a healthy gut, and therefore a healthy brain. You’ll enjoy the following benefits when you sprinkle some of these tasty seeds over your morning oatmeal:
- Improved memory function
- Mood regulation
- Improved gut health
- Regulated bowel movements
- Increased weight loss
A 30-gram serving of hemp seeds provides 3000 milligrams of omega 3 fatty acids, which far exceeds our daily recommended intake. Head to Grass Roots for everything from hemp seeds to hemp seed oil and protein powder.
Keen for more health and nutrition tips? We’re here to help. Join us for the 8-Week Program where we’ll be quitting sugar and turning our health dreams into a reality. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
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- Support and guidance from the I Quit Sugar team.
- Exclusive content from our panel of experts.
So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, JOIN NOW!