Many of us can relate to the feeling we might have after a breakfast of coffee and a donut. Or what about that really big meal, finished off with some ice cream? Or the hot day, when we were tired and reached for a 24 oz soda? It can be one thing to do these things once in a while, once a month or less, if you have overall good health. But for many people, a consistently high sugar, highly processed diet leads to the development of chronic conditions. We speak often about foods relationship to weight gain, diabetes and heart health risks, but we rarely talk about the connections to depression. Our mind, body connection is very much a mind, belly connection, and how we eat can influence our mood and help combat depression.
May is Mental Health Month and research has shown that a diet high in processed, fried and high sugar food is connected with up to a 60% increased risk for developing depression. For teens, those with the highest intake of processed foods can have up to an 80% increased risk. On the flip side, a healthy diet, full of whole plant foods and healthy fats is not only decreasing depression risk, but also helping build a stronger hippocampus. The hippocampus is the center of memory and learning, but also a key area for mental well-being.
While eating a balanced, whole food diet, with consistent high intake of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, and fish is the best strategy for overall health, a few key nutrients can assist with mental health.
Omega 3 fats are strongly related to a variety of improved health outcomes, and there is ongoing research in how Omega 3’s, specifically EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid, may improve outcomes when taken along with an antidepressant. Including salmon, trout and sardines; walnuts, flax and chia seeds; and dark green veggies like kale and spinach 2-3 times a week can provide good sources of dietary Omega-3. The b-vitamins, specifically folate or folic acid and B12, are important as part of our protein synthesis and interplay with neurotransmitters. Higher levels of dietary folate intake are connected with lower levels of depression. Folate is found in a variety of plant foods, from fruits and veggies, to beans and whole grains. B12 is more prevalent in animal foods, meat, egg and dairy, but can also be found in fortified whole grain cereals.
Choose this easy yogurt parfait for brain health at breakfast or as a snack. Be aware of how food plays a part in your own mental health, and help others discover how healthier food choices may help nurture their brains.
BOB (Banana, Omega 3, B-vitamin) Power Parfait
- 1 cup Non-fat Greek yogurt
- 6-7 walnut halves
- ½ a banana, cut up
- ½ teaspoon ground flax seeds
- ½ teaspoon chia seeds
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup Cheerios, or other high fiber, low sugar, fortified cereal
- Mix together yogurt, vanilla, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and banana and spoon into a bowl.
- Sprinkle with cereal and walnuts. Enjoy!