The connection between nutrition and your mentality is expanding as more research appears, supporting the role proper nutrient intake has on your mental well-being. Our bodily systems function as a cohesive unit, and in order for us to align the body with the mind, proper nutrition should be considered.
In fact, certain foods found within the typical plant-based diet have been shown to positively affect your mood! Embrace the foods that can amp up your mood and form a body, mind connection with recipe suggestions from our Food Monster App.
1. The Best and Worst Nutrients for the Mind
In order to understand how to meal plan for a healthy mind and uplifted mood, it is first important to explore which foods can contribute to a decreased mentality. Foods high in high-fructose corn syrup or that contain artificial sweeteners and added sugars can negatively impact your brain health. Additional foods that may have adverse effects on the mind are products high in omega-6 fatty acids like margarine, coffee, alcohol, processed deli meats, and salted nuts and seeds roasted in unhealthy oils.
The reason why these specific foods may hinder the mind are that they impair the functioning of our neurotransmitters, which serve to regulate our mood. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level also influences our mood. When we consume foods that are heavily processed with added sugars, our blood sugar spikes and then crashes, causing irritability to ensue. However, when we give our bodies proper nutrients, we can effectively improve the functioning of our neurotransmitters.
So how exactly does consuming a vegan, plant-based diet contribute to an uplifted mood? Plant-based foods are loaded with nutrients that enhance brain health and improve mentality. They also contain specific nutrients that often aren’t found in abundance in animal products.
Some of these nutrients include magnesium, healthy, unsaturated fats, and complex carbohydrates. Omega-3 fatty acids are also plentiful in a vegan diet and are vital to a healthy, functioning brain. When consuming a diet sourced from plants, it is easy to increase your intake of these mood-boosting nutrients!
2. How Certain Plant-based Nutrients Influence your Mood
Nutrient-Dense Broccoli, Peas, and Kale Soup/One Green Planet
We have already learned which nutrients to include and which to exclude when it comes to bettering our minds. It is important to understand how these nutrients sourced from plants work in the brain.
- Magnesium alleviates inflammation and removes heavy metals from the body. Increased levels of inflammation can contribute to anxiety, poor memory, and a decreased mood. Magnesium can improve your mood by triggering the release of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which elevates happiness. The most abundant sources of magnesium are found in plant-based foods like spinach, swiss chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, and avocados. Magnesium deficiency is very common, so it is a very important nutrient to take in!
- Complex Carbohydrates, not to be confused with simple carbohydrates found in processed foods like cake and enriched bread, also increase feel-good serotonin in the brain. This is because when carbs are consumed, insulin secretion increases the release of this neurotransmitter. Carbohydrates are most abundant in grains, fruits, and vegetables. The best sources of complex carbohydrates are wheat, barley, quinoa, legumes, oats, spelt, rye, and fruits and vegetables
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential building blocks for the brain. They work to maintain proper brain function by building healthy cell membranes and improving nerve transmission. One type of omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is especially important for brain health. This is because it is structurally important to the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for memory, judgment, emotion, and attention. They also regulate neurotransmitters that work to improve your mood! Skip the fish oil, and try omega-3-packed plant-based foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, leafy greens, beans, cabbages, and squash.
3. Additional Foods to Make you Smile
Incorporating magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates can improve your mood, but additionally, these foods may help as well!
- Apples contain an antioxidant known as quercetin which can positively impact neurotransmitters in the brain!
- Oranges are high in brain-healthy b vitamins, including thiamine and folate!
- Berries are extremely high in antioxidants that can protect against oxidative stress in the brain!
- Chickpeas are a great source of plant-based protein that can help produce serotonin in the brain.
4. Mood-Boosting Recipes!
5-Ingredient Raw Orange Bars/One Green Planet
Boost your mood naturally with delicious, healthy vegan recipes! A few quick ideas are this Cinnamon Apple Smoothie, Orange Turmeric Scones with Wild Blueberries, Taco Bowl with Turmeric Chickpeas, Raw Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cake, The Miracle Bread, Herbed Probiotic Cashew Cheese, Cherry Jam Cookie Bars, or this Avocado Kale Chili Salad.
While proper changes to your diet can work to improve your mood, it should never be used in place of necessary treatment.
For more mood-boosting info like Elevate Your Mood and Get Happy with These 11 Foods, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: Sébastien Gagnon/Flickr