Oftentimes, physical health becomes the priority during the summer season as everyone tries to get fit and “beach-ready” in order to enjoy the summer heat. Although physical health is an important part of wellness, it is equally important to prioritize your mental health during the summer months.
Here are some of the best foods to support your mental health this summer:
Watermelon is a staple summer treat as it is the perfect combination of sweet and hydrating. Additionally, watermelon has been shown to help protect brain tissue and promote cognitive function. This is because it contains lycopene, an antioxidant that helps lower the risk of the inflammation that is associated with dementia and depression. Watermelon is incredibly rich in lycopene, in fact, it contains up to 20 milligrams in just a two-cup serving.
Orange bell peppers are another great food to incorporate into your diet to combat depression and promote brain health. Bell peppers contain beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that helps prevent brain damage. Bell peppers also contain a variety of important vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, potassium, iron, and fiber. It is also important to note that experts advise that the richer the color of the pepper, the more protection your brain gets.
Corn often gets a bad reputation because it is not an incredibly nutrient-dense crop. However, when it comes to eating for mental health, corn is a great addition to your diet. Corn is a starchy vegetable meaning it is a high-quality carbohydrate. High-quality carbohydrates are considered mood enhancers due to the fact they help increase serotonin levels.
Like many kinds of seafood, shrimp is high in omega-3’s but what makes them unique is that they are low in mercury (which unfortunately cannot be said for all fish). Omega-3 is known for its multitude of benefits for the brain as it is used to build brain nerves and cells. This in turn helps with learning, memory, minimize depression symptoms, improve mood stability, slow age-related mental decline, and helps prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Purple potatoes are a great addition to any potato salad this summer as they contain the antioxidant anthocyanin. This antioxidant is packed with iodine which helps promote proper thyroid function as well as stabilizes hormone levels. It is important to note that thyroid dysfunction is often the cause of mood swings or mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Purple potatoes also help reduce inflammation, which can help improve cognitive function as well.
Organically grown and locally sourced romaine lettuce is a great base for any summer salad. Romaine lettuce is a great source of folate, which is a type of B vitamin that is essential for mood stability. Low levels of folate have been linked to depression and other mood disorders. This is because folate is involved in the development of neurotransmitters. In fact, the influence of folate on nervous system development is so prominent that expectant mothers are often encouraged to increase their folate intake as early as two weeks after becoming pregnant. Studies show increasing folate levels in expectant mothers reduces the risk of certain neurological defects in their child.
This “superfood” contains a variety of nutrients that help boost mental health such as tryptophan, folate, and omega-3. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, making other essential amino acids available for a variety of other functions. Thus, tryptophan is able to help control moods and can lower the production of stress hormones as well.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Lastly, one of the most important things you can do for your mental health is to stay hydrated this summer. The U.S. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water a day for men and approximately 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. Your body is nearly 60% water and dehydration can increase your risk of anxiety, depression, and other unhealthy mental states.
Diet is one of the best ways to support your mental health, so amongst all the fun and games this summer make sure you are still prioritizing your wellbeing.