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Eating Well: 10 Foods That Can Improve Your Mental Health

Did you know that some foods can do wonders for your mental health and well-being?

Wellness

Goodness, y'all. If 2020 hasn't driven any other point home—and we all know, there are a billion and one to ponder—it's the fact that now, more than ever, we've got to do all that we can to proactively care for our mental health and well-being. This includes seeing our physician if we're not feeling well. This includes making an appointment to speak with a reputable therapist, counselor or life coach, if we need some help working through some things. This means taking some time off of social media and turning off our phones so that we can take a break from all of the "noise" that is constantly around us. This means making pampering and chilling out top priorities. This means finding inner peace. You know what else? This also means practicing watching our diet. No joke.

One day, I'll have to get into how certain foods can actually affect your mental health in negative ways (checking out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone" is a good starting point). But today, for now, let's look at 10 foods that are actually proven to improve your mental stability and longevity. Because, in times like these, we all can use every ounce of help that we can get…right? Amen.

1. Blackberries

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It really is important to eat fruits and veggies when they're in season; that way, you can get the most nutrients out of 'em. That said, when it comes to blackberries, the best time of year to consume them is between the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn. If you wait until then to cop some, you'll end up with berries that are packed with vitamins C and K, fiber and manganese, along with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help to support oral health and strong bones. Something else that blackberries contain is anthocyanins; these are natural compounds that fight to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

The reason why you should consider eating blackberries to improve your mental health is because anthocyanins also help to keep free radicals from damaging your brain cells in a way that could ultimately lead to memory loss. Also, thanks to the fruit's anti-inflammatory properties, blackberries can reduce brain inflammation that could possibly lead to long-term cognitive decline.

2. Lamb

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One of my favorite meats is definitely lamb. I mean, give me some lamb chops and you've got a fan for life! Anyway, aside from being high in protein, lamb is also a good source of omega-3 and 6, along with vitamins B12 and B3, zinc and selenium. All of these point to this kind of meat providing quite a few health benefits. For instance, lamb is high in heme iron (a type of iron that is easily absorbed into your bloodstream); creatine (an organic compound that creates muscle mass); glutathione (which is a big time antioxidant), and Linoleic Acid (LA) which is an acid that can actually reduce your chances of having a heart attack. In fact, lamb contains more LA than any other meat does.

Lamb is dope when it comes to your mental health because it's also considered to be a dopamine-rich type of food. Dopamine helps to get you in a better mood, improves your memory, counteracts depression and can even make you less impulsive.

3. Broccoli

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The tiny veggie trees known as broccoli are good for you for a myriad of reasons. Broccoli has protein, fiber, a ton of vitamins C and K, folate and Vitamin A in it. The antioxidants in broccoli help to fight off free radicals; the bioactive compounds it contains reduces bodily inflammation; its fiber decreases the chances of constipation; its bioactive compound sulforaphane helps to slow down the signs of aging, and the Vitamin C that's in broccoli will keep your immune system healthy and strong.

Another compound that broccoli has in it is kaempferol. There are studies to support that it's effective at reducing the inflammation of neural tissue. Plus, its other bioactive compounds are able to support healthy brain function too.

4. Shiitake Mushrooms

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Although I'm not a vegetarian (or vegan), whenever I'm in the mood to go for a meat alternative, believe it or not, I typically reach for mushrooms. To me, they have a "meat-like texture" to them without all of the preservatives that a lot of "fake meat" contains. When it comes to mushrooms that are super healthy, you can't do much better than shiitake ones. They contain a fair amount of protein and fiber, but where these mushrooms really shine is the fact that they're high in copper and Vitamin B5. Plus, they contain compounds that will lower your cholesterol levels and boost your immune system, and they contain antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties that can reduce viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.

Shiitake mushrooms also have a good amount of zinc in them. This is great to know because zinc is a mineral that is scientifically proven to reduce depression-related symptoms while calming your nerves so that you're less anxious.

5. Swiss Chard

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When the topic of dark leafy greens comes up, oftentimes it's ones like kale or spinach that immediately come to mind. But if you want to add some variety to your greens-eating collection, be sure to get some swiss chard into the mix. For starters, it's high in fiber. But what's really mind-blowing is swiss chard contains a whopping 716 percent of the Vitamin K that your system needs on a daily basis and 214 percent of the Vitamin A that you need as well (not to mention that it contains magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron and copper too). Swiss chard is also high in antioxidants that can help to protect your heart, lower your blood sugar levels and keep your weight in balance.

Thanks to the magnesium that's in this particular green vegetable, swiss chard can help to speed up the healing process of a migraine, put you into a better mood and, there are even studies that reveal magnesium can help to treat certain neurological disorders as well.

6. Maca

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Maca is a medicinal root from Peru. Over the past several years, it's become all the rage because it also provides loads of health benefits. Maca offers 133 percent of the daily amount of Vitamin C that your body needs. Maca also contains 85 percent of the daily copper that your system requires too. It contains a pretty impressive amount of fiber and protein, along with a good amount of iron, potassium and Vitamin B6. If you're looking for something that will boost your libido, improve your partner's sperm quality or relieve menopausal symptoms, maca's totally got your back. Some athletes also take maca in supplement form in order to boost their endurance.

If you're feeling a little stressed out, getting some maca into your system might be just what your body desires. That's because another benefit of maca—whether in supplement or powder form—is it also helps to reduce anxiety and depression-related symptoms; this is, in part, due to the flavonoids that are in it.

7. Salmon

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C'mon. Is there anything better than a piece of grilled salmon and rice, a salmon caesar salad or some fresh salmon sushi? Aside from how delicious these meals are, salmon has omega-3 fatty acids to lower your blood pressure and give you a boost of energy; vitamins A, D, E and K to support your bone and eye health; B vitamins to level out your cortisol levels, and fatty acids to lubricate your joints and also keep your skin healthy and radiant.

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon are really good for your mental health because they can help to elevate your memory retention. Plus, those acids, combined with the Vitamin D that is also in this type of fish, can help to give you a boost of energy and feelings of positivity on the days when you are feeling a little on the low side.

8. Brown Rice

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Brown rice is a whole grain. Off top, that makes it a food that is good for your overall health and well-being. It's got fiber, protein and a ton of manganese (81 percent of your reference daily intake). Brown rice also contains selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins B1, B3 and B6. Since this is the kind of whole grain that also has phytic acid and polyphenols in it, brown rice can lower your blood sugar. The selenium in it can help to prevent your arteries from clogging up and its fiber amount can help to keep you regular and toxin-free.

Brown rice does your brain a world of good because it's also got the natural compound Gamma-Aminobutyric (GABA) acid in it. It's kind of a long story but, basically what GABA does is help to slow down the neurons in your brain so that you don't feel as upset, worried or anxious as you would if they were running full throttle. The more you know, y'all.

9. Seeds and Nuts

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Do you like to snack on seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds or nuts like almonds, cashews or peanuts? If so, good for you. Whether you realize it or not, when you eat seeds and nuts like these, your body is getting a good dose of monounsaturated fats (which decreases your chances of having heart disease or type 2 diabetes), zero dietary cholesterol, lots of fiber, plenty of antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals like vitamins B6 and E, folate, magnesium, calcium, zinc, copper, selenium and plant iron.

Something else that both seeds and nuts have an abundance of is serotonin. This is good to know because it's a natural neurotransmitter in your body that regulates your moods, your sleeping patterns, your libido and your appetite. When serotonin is flowing throughout your body, your mental health and well-being is better in every way.

10. Cinnamon

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Cinnamon is a must-have spice for any woman. It maintains vaginal health. It's a great aphrodisiac. It contains strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It lowers the amount of bad cholesterol that's in your system. Cinnamon also has the ability to reduce the amount of insulin resistance that's in your body. It fights viral and bacterial infections. There are even studies which reveal that cinnamon slows down the growth of HIV cells.

As far as your brain goes, not only does cinnamon fight to stifle the build-up of tau (a protein that can eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease), whether you smell it or consume it, cinnamon is a spice that increases cognitive function and memory. So, whether you decide to sprinkle it on a favorite drink or bake with it, make sure to add cinnamon more to your diet. Your mental health will thank you for it in so many different ways!

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