Taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of our body, and both are closely related. Mental discomfort can affect our health in the form of pain and worsen the diagnosis of other diseases by worsening our self-care. In turn, physical discomfort or poor nutrition can affect the health of our brain.
The importance of nutrition in the field of psychiatry has been analyzed and studied for several years, becoming part of some treatments for diseases in this field. Of course, these treatments must always be controlled by a doctor and in no case should you leave a medication prescribed by a specialist to replace it on your own by a diet or similar.
However, we do know today that there are some essential nutrients for the maintenance of mental health.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fats, and in particular omega-3, play an important role in the maintenance of neuronal structure and function as well as intervening in some aspects of the body’s inflammatory response. For that reason, it seems that consuming enough omega-3 is beneficial to treat and control the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
This type of fatty acids can be found in nuts, seeds and some fish such as salmon or sardines.
2. Vitamins B
The group of vitamins B intervenes in a wide variety of processes necessary for the maintenance of the health of our cells and in metabolic processes. They are also necessary for the production of different cells that make up our brain.
Specifically, vitamin B9 deficiency, also called folate, is often found in people who suffer from depression and do not respond well to antidepressant medications. Several studies have evaluated the antidepressant effect of folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) by combining it with antidepressants and some have shown that the response improves when taking both.
Foods such as unprocessed meats, milk and dairy products, whole grains and nuts are generally the richest in the range of B vitamins, which also should be taken together as they act together. Specifically , green leafy vegetables and legumes are rich in vitamin B9.
3. Amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that are in turn formed many of the chemicals and substances necessary for the proper functioning of the brain. Some amino acids are the precursors of substances that affect our mood, such as tryptophan, which in turn is necessary for serotonin to form, or cysteine, an amino acid that turns into glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that is generated in our body. body.
There is evidence that these amino acids that are converted into glutathione can help the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolarity and some addictive disorders. They can be found in the main sources of proteins: meats, fish, seafood, eggs, legumes and nuts.
4. Minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron
Some minerals, such as zinc, magnesium and iron are also important for the proper functioning of the brain.
Zinc is involved in many of the chemical reactions that occur in our brain. It is also a key element for the proper functioning of the immune system. Its lack is associated with an increase in the symptoms of depression, there is evidence of good results when the medication is combined with antidepressants with zinc supplements in the treatment of this disease.
Magnesium also plays a role in many of these chemical reactions, and its deficiency is related to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Iron is also involved in much of the activity of the brain, among other things contributing to the transport of oxygen to their cells and when missing is related to symptoms of depression and developmental problems.
Zinc can be found in lean meats, oysters, whole grains, nuts and pumpkin seeds , and magnesium in nuts, legumes, cereals, green leafy vegetables and soy. Iron is found mainly in unprocessed meats and casseroles, such as liver, and, to a lesser extent, in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is as important for brain development as it is for the development and maintenance of bones. Some data suggest that low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, and that their deficiency increases the symptoms of depression, although there is insufficient evidence that vitamin D supplements help prevent it.
Vitamin D is synthesized through sunlight: a daily walk of 15 minutes in the sun may be enough, but remember to protect your skin with sunscreen, especially in the months of spring and summer and in the central hours of the day. Here are other ways to increase your vitamin D levels
6. Antioxidants of plant origin
Increased oxidative stress and damage to brain cells are implicated in a broad spectrum of mental disorders, including depression and dementia. Some antioxidant compounds, such as the polyphenols found in fruit and some herbs, could help repair free radicals that damage cells as a natural way to combat excess oxidation.
Consuming these polyphenols as part of the diet helps the body absorb and use them better. As we say, you can find them in many fruits and vegetables: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, mangoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, green tea, black tea and coffee.
7. Probiotic foods
So far, several investigations have revealed a connection between the bacteria that live naturally in our intestines and the health of the brain, which in turn could affect our mental health. When the composition of that microbiota is decompensated, this can result in an inflammatory response that could affect the nervous system and neuronal function.
To feed that microbiota, it is good to eat fermented foods that we call probiotics, such as tempeh, yogurt, kefir or fermented vegetables.
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