You already know that making good food choices can improve your physical health, but it can also help enhance your mental health, too. Noted nutritional psychologist, Rae partner and author of This Is Your Brain On Food, Dr. Uma Naidoo shares her insights on choosing foods that can help boost mental well-being.
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Experimenting is good—Dr. Uma says “I change up my veggies, the colors, and the biodiversity every day and every week to ensure the best balance.”
Add Omega 3’s
Omega 3’s are healthy fatty acids found in fish like salmon, pollack and tuna—Dr Uma likes them for their ability to reduce inflammation and enhance brain function. If you’re vegetarian, load up on great Omega 3 sources like avocados, walnuts, and seeds. As an added benefit, Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower beta-amyloid levels—the protein associated with age-related decline in cognitive function.
Beyond helping body functions like calcium absorption and bone growth, in the brain, Vitamin D acts as a neuro-steroid and plays a role in protecting against depression and anxiety. Oily fish—think tuna and salmon—contain Vitamin D, as do egg yolks and cheese. It’s hard to get enough Vitamin D just through food, so adding a multivitamin is a good idea.
A lifelong advocate of cooking with spice, Dr. Uma’sf favorite ingredients add a pop of flavor and a brain boost. One of her go-to combinations: a pinch of black pepper and turmeric to help reduce stress and anxiety and prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
As Dr. Uma says, “a happy gut is a happy and calm mood” and fermented foods can calm and balance your digestive system. Umami flavor bombs like miso, sauerkraut and kimchi can help create a healthy gut microbiome that’s effective in improving mental health. For extra support, a plant-based pre-probiotic is a great way to go.