Written by Macey Leatham, RDN
Mental health disorders affect approximately 1 in 5 women in the United States. It's encouraging to see increased awareness and support options for mental health struggles. It's also important to acknowledge that supporting mental health is relevant for everyone, regardless of having a diagnosis.
Here are some favorite ways to promote mental health through food and self-care.
(Note: This information is not medical advice, as mental health is multifaceted and may require personalized approaches. Consult with your healthcare professionals for guidance.)
Foods to support mental health:
- Eating ENOUGH. We joke about being “hangry" but it's known to be true! Our bodies and brain can not function optimally we you are not eating enough calories. Eating at least 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day helps stabilize blood sugar and support your overall mood.
- Fish, Fruit, and Veggies! Fish is a great source of B12, Omega-3s, and Choline; all of which help support brain function. Fruits and veggies support digestion and have been linked to more diverse good bacteria. A healthy digestive tract has been linked to improvements in mental health.
Self-care and compassion:
- Including daily self care and acts of self compassion can be great grounding activities to help you refocus and reconnect with your body. These activities can be different for everyone, and can take as little as a couple minutes a day. Having a variety of self care options that you enjoy and can easily incorporate is key for creating sustainable self care practices.
- Some examples of self care and compassion:
- Consistent meals, short walk outside, gentle or intense exercise, epsom salt bath (also helpful for sleep and digestion), breathing exercises, washing your face, using your favorite fragrant soap, reading a book, planting/working in the garden, buying yourself flowers, mindfully enjoying your favorite treat, getting a massage, and getting enough sleep.
- This list is definitely not all encompassing! Finding your favorite self care actions can be a fun journey; find small and big activities that help you tune into your body and build respect and compassion for it.
These dietary and self-care strategies can compliment counseling and medication, when necessary. Whether you are dealing with diagnosed mental health disorders or seeking to support your overall mental well-being, incorporating brain-supportive foods and self-care activities can contribute to improved mental and overall health!
Edited by Berenice Zubiate
Berding K, Vlckova K, Marx W, Schellekens H, Stanton C, Clarke G, Jacka F, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Diet and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Sowing the Seeds of Good Mental Health. Adv Nutr. 2021 Jul 30;12(4):1239-1285. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmaa181. PMID: 33693453; PMCID: PMC8321864.