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Ralph Teller

Brain Foods that Protect Mental Health and Mood, Foods that Harm

by Ralph Teller

Diet may be Protective of Mental Health OR Increase Risk of Psychiatric and Neurologic conditions, such as Depression

Diet is inextricably linked to conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. However, what we consume also seems to have significant implications for the brain. Research confirms unhealthy diets may increase risk for psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and dementia. Healthy diets are protective of brain and mental health.

List of Protective Brain Foods

Here are some tips regarding foods that are protective of mental health and mood:

Mediterranean Diet. A 2009 study published in Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who follow Mediterranean dietary patterns -- that is, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fat (common in olive and other plant oils) -- are up to 30% less likely to develop depression.

Healthy Fats. Fats are essential to good health and a healthy metabolism. However, some fats are overall unhealthy. A study conducted in Spain found that consumption of both polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in nuts, seeds, fish, and leafy green vegetables) and monounsaturated fatty acids (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts) are healthy and decrease the risk for depression over time.

A deficiency in polyunsaturated fatty acids has been linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Fish. Thanks to high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely Omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help fend off numerous diseases of the brain. A recent study correlated fish consumption with a lower risk for psychotic symptoms. Oily, cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel, have the highest Omega-3 levels. See Natural Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Berries and other High Antioxident Foods. Polyphenols, namely anthocyanins, found in berries and other darkly pigmented fruits and vegetables may slow cognitive decline through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A recent study showed that a diet high in strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry leads to a reversal of age-related deficits in nerve function and behavior involving learning and memory.

Whole Foods. A so-called "whole" diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality meats and fish results in a 30% risk reduction for depression and anxiety disorders, compared with consumption of a "Western diet" high in processed foods and saturated fats.

Milk. Milk, especially Raw Milk (unpasteurized) contains lactose. Glucose is the only source of fuel for our brain cells. Lactose is composed of glucose and galactose. Lactose if digested by lactase, an enzyme found in raw milk to produce glucose. Raw milk might be the best brain food. See Raw Milk Nutrient Content

There are several other factor in addition to diet that impact mental health and depression. See Tips to Beat Depression Naturally

List of Foods causing Mental Health Problems

Here is a list of foods that are known to cause mental health problems and depression.

Unhealthy Fats. Trans fats have been linked to depression. Trans fats are found extensively in processed foods, including many commercial chocolates (hence, check that label).

Refined Sugars and Carbohydrates. Refined sugars and refined carbohydrates have highly detrimental effects on the immune system, oxidative stress, and neurotrophins, all factors that significantly increase risk of depression.

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Articles on Diet Mental Health and Depression

Brain Food: Fending Off Mental and Neurologic Illness With Diet , Medscape

Publication Mediterranean Diet May Cut Depression Risk, Janis C. Kelly, Medscape

PublicationTrans-Fats Linked to Increased Depression Risk, Deborah Brauser, Medscape

Publication Adopting a Healthy Diet May Help ADHD, Megan Brooks, Medscape

PublicationNatural Sources of Antioxidants, by Sheena Ingle, Livestrong

Publication Fish Oil to Fend Off Psychosis: New Evidence, Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH, Medscape

Publication New Mechanism for Berries' Potential Brain Benefits Uncovered, Megan Brooks, Medscape

Publication Whole Diet May Ward Off Depression and Anxiety, Caroline Cassels, Medscape

Publication Diet Rich in Processed Food Linked to Increased Risk for Depression, Pauline Anderson, Medscape


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