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?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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