A plant-based diet is where you consume fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. It excludes all meat products, including fish and chicken. The benefits of a plant-based diet are endless! You may have heard some of the physical benefits that can come from a plant-based diet. However, what about the mental health benefits that can come from switching to eating plants? This article will discuss some of the ways a plant-based diet can affect mental health!
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega fatty acids are essential for brain function. Plant foods contain omega fatty acids, making it easier for us to think clearly, boost memory, focus more easily on tasks at hand, control impulses (which leads to less stress), and even combat depression. The Standard American Diet has so much processed food that it lacks healthy nutrients like these. When we consume too much junk food, our body does not get what it needs to keep itself running smoothly; this includes our brains! It may be surprising, but seafood, including fish, does not provide the same benefits as plants.
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps us to feel happy. Plant foods contain tryptophan which serves as an essential building block for serotonin production. You can get tryptophan by eating certain plants like soy, sweet potatoes, spinach, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Another way a plant-based diet will improve serotonin levels is because it is a diet higher in carbs. Healthy carbs are a great way to get your brain to release that happy chemical!
One reason that plant-based diets may be better for mental health is that they provide plenty of zinc which helps with mood regulation by regulating dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (all chemicals linked to stress). Plant foods like beans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and spinach contain lots of zinc! Zinc is also essential for creating and maintaining new brain cells, which helps your brain keep learning and growing! This mineral has a wide range of health benefits, including the ability to support a healthy brain.
Magnesium is a nutrient that helps with mental health because it regulates the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are both linked to mood regulation. When we eat too much sugar, caffeine, or alcohol, it can interfere with magnesium absorption in our bodies. Magnesium is also essential to your mental health because, like zinc, it helps with regulating stress levels by alleviating your body’s stress response. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are loaded with magnesium and are some of the best ways for your body to get it! Other foods that contain a decent amount of magnesium include dried peaches, almonds, peanuts, avocado, brown rice, cashews, and pumpkin seeds.
Calcium is another nutrient that’s extremely important for mental health! Our brains use calcium to make neurotransmitters which are the chemicals in our brain responsible for sending signals between different nerve cells. When we don’t get enough calcium, it can be difficult to think clearly, focus on tasks at hand, and control impulses (which leads to less stress). A plant-based diet helps improve mental health by getting plenty of calcium without dairy products or fish! Foods high in calcium include almonds, kale, broccoli, beans/ legumes, fortified foods like soy milk and orange juice. The best sources of vegan calcium are leafy greens. Some examples would be bok choy, collard greens, and spinach.
One way plants help your mental health is by being high in antioxidants! Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, apples, and oranges can improve brain function and protect you from free radicals that damage cells. Some research suggests that people who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables (which tend to be the most antioxidant-dense food group) may have a higher rate of depression than those who do. Antioxidants play an essential role in your mental health because they help to reduce stress. They also improve your mood by helping to repair damaged cells and protect your brain from harmful substances, which can cause fatigue and contribute to someone feeling down.
Plants can be incredibly beneficial for those struggling with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more minor mental health struggles such as mood swings or insomnia! We must eat these types of food to maintain healthy moods and live happy lives! Eating more natural foods like fruits and vegetables can help nourish our bodies properly by supplying them with what they need for optimal functioning.