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1/1/20: Nutrition and Mental Health

1/1/20: Nutrition and Mental Health

We all know that what we eat can affect our physical health but can it affect our mental health as well?  Growing scientific evidence does point to the fact that it can indeed.  After all, our brain is just another organ in our body and it makes sense that what we are feeding our body can affect the health of all our organs, including our brain, and thus, our mental health.  It seems that a Mediterranean type diet not only can help prevent heart disease and cancer and lead to longer life expectancy, but it can help prevent depression.  A Mediterranean diet is high in plant-based foods, including vegetables, both fresh and dried fruits, whole-grain cereals, nuts, legumes and small amounts of wine.  The primary protein source is seafood, with other meats eaten sparingly.  Goat and sheep milk cheeses and yogurts are also consumed by people in these cultures. They limit sugary and high-fat processed foods.

Specific nutrients that are plentiful in this diet include the B vitamins folate, vitamin B6 and B12, iron, zinc, magnesium, chromium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.  All of these nutrients have been shown to help prevent depression.  Broccoli, asparagus, orange juice and bran flakes are good dietary sources of folate.  Vitamin B6 can be found in chickpeas, chicken and ground beef, as well as bananas, spinach and red bell peppers.  Vitamin B12 is found in foods of animal origin, plus in fortified cereals.  Iron is found in meats, dried beans, dried apricots and raisins, potatoes with the skin, and, again, fortified cereals.  Zinc is found in higher levels in meats and dairy, with some also found in various fruits and vegetables, cereals and wheat germ. Legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy are good sources of magnesium.  Chromium is plentiful in broccoli, grape juice, and meat, as well as some being found in other fruits, vegetables and grains.  Vitamin D is found in fatty fish as well as fortified products and omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in seafood. 

So, for a New Year’s resolution and better health, both physically and mentally, you might consider eating more similarly to how those folks in the Mediterranean regions do.

Cheers for an upcoming healthy year!