Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B and D, and micronutrients including calcium, chromium, iron, selenium and zinc are more frequently seen in persons experiencing depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive impairment, and psychosis.
Balancing blood sugars and increasing the amount of plant based foods and lean proteins in the diet can substantially improve general well-being and decrease mental health symptoms and help to ensure that you are consuming critical micronutrients. Eating a wide variety of whole foods will help to improve nutrition and mental health.
Balancing Blood Sugars
Eat three meals and one to two snacks each day. To balance blood sugars, meals and snacks should be evenly spaced throughout the day. Each meal or snack should include a balance of protein and carbohydrates to help keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent mood swings.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include seafood, nuts and seeds. Seafood sources include halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, and fresh tuna. Good plant based sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Boosting B vitamins can boost your mood and energy levels. Vitamin B-12 can be found primarily in eggs, meat, seafood and dairy products. Seafood sources include mackerel, sardines, salmon, and fresh tuna as well as octopus and caviar. Shellfish is also a good source of vitamin B-12, particularly in clams, oysters and mussels. Cheeses including Swiss, feta, mozzarella, parmesan and Norwegian gjtost are also excellent sources of B vitamins.
Also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid, another important B vitamin for supporting optimum mental health is folate. Folate can be found primarily in legumes and vegetables. Legumes which are high in folate include pinto beans, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils. Plant sources include spinach, turnip greens, pak choi, Savoy cabbage, collard greens, asparagus, romaine lettuce, avocado and broccoli.
Calcium is necessary for maintaining strong bones and teeth. SSRIs which are used to treat symptoms of depression can deplete calcium. Dairy products including cheese, yogurt and milk are good sources of calcium. Other sources include sardines and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and turnip greens.
Chromium can be found in broccoli, green beans, mushrooms and whole grains as well as in garlic, basil and red wine. It is essential for balancing blood sugars and supporting the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fat in the diet.
Fatigue and cognitive impairments are common symptoms of iron deficiency. Dietary sources of iron include liver, clams, oysters and sardines as well as in spinach, pumpkin seeds, prunes and blackstrap molasses. Iron is also found in beans, lentils, tomatoes, beef and lamb.
A trace nutrient, selenium is critical in the metabolism of the thyroid hormone. Selenium is primarily found in animal proteins including tuna, halibut, beef, turkey, chicken and eggs. As a result, many vegans are prone to selenium deficiencies. This can be avoided by including brazil nuts, brown rice, beans, lentils and spinach in the diet.
Seafood including oysters, crab, lobster and flounder, is the best source of dietary zinc. Zinc can also be found in beef, pork, chicken, milk and cheese as well as in cashews, almonds and chickpeas. Zinc is critical for proper immune function and regular consumption of foods high in zinc is particularly important as the body does not store zinc.
The body metabolizes vitamin D through sun exposure. As little as fifteen minutes per day in a temperate climate may be enough for most people to ensure adequate vitamin D levels to support strong bones and a healthy immune system. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t get enough sun exposure. Dietary sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, eggs and mushrooms.