According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s latest available statistics, 8 percent of adults in Benton County and 7 percent of adults in Franklin County report their mental health was not good for 14 or more days out of the past 30 days. We know that following a healthy diet, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and exercise can improve physical health. It also applies to mental health.
If you suffer from mental health problems, you may want to keep a food and mood diary.
Unfortunately, there’s no panacea here, at least not yet. You can’t cure bipolar disorder by eating more broccoli, but it might make you feel better. So far, the science shows that eating more whole foods and fewer processed and fast foods can beneficially affect mood and lower the risk of acquiring mental health disorders.
In 2011, Researchers in Australia found that diet quality appears to play a part in preventing mental illness in children, which is significant since anxiety disorders can start around age 6 and depression around 13. They defined a healthy diet as including two or more servings of fruit a day and four or more servings of vegetables, and avoiding processed foods, including chips, fried foods, chocolate, sweets and ice cream. Children whose diets got worse over two years had a worsening in their mental health, while those whose diets improved felt better.
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In 2010, these same researchers found that women who regularly ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and low-fat meats cut their risk for depression and anxiety disorders by more than 30 percent. Studies in other parts of the world have seen similar results.
A study published in 2015 followed 292 Geico employees who switched to a plant-based diet for 18 weeks. Researchers found that the diet reduced depression and anxiety and increased productivity.
A study published in 2015 followed 292 Geico employees who switched to a plant-based diet for 18 weeks. Researchers found that the diet reduced depression and anxiety and increased productivity. Other research suggests that people who eat a diet high in tomatoes or orange vegetables have lower risks for depression, as do people who consume more folate. This B vitamin is found primarily in leafy greens, broccoli family vegetables, asparagus, and beans. Omega-3 fatty acid sources like fish and flax seed meal seem to benefit mental health while trans fats seem to increase the risk of depression.
If you suffer from mental health problems, you may want to keep a food and mood diary. Write down what you eat each meal, and then go back to your list about two hours later and indicate how you feel. You could simply draw a face with a smile or a frown. See if any patterns develop.
Try this one-pot meal, which doesn’t contain processed foods. Hopefully you’ll feel like smiling about two hours after you eat it.
Colorful and Flavorful Black Bean and Quinoa Soup
Servings: 6. Preparation Time: about 60 minutes.
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 pound sweet potatoes, about one large, peeled and cut into ½” to ¾” cubes
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with no added salt
2 15-ounce cans black beans with no added salt, rinsed and drained
2/3 cups quinoa, rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ tablespoon ground cumin
¼ cup peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter (choose one that is not hydrogenated)
1½ cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
4 to 5 ounces chopped spinach, kale or other green, fresh or frozen
Heat a soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir occasionally until browned. You may want to have a couple tablespoons of water handy to add in case the onion browns too quickly. It is not necessary to add oil to brown vegetables. Add the garlic and bell pepper and cook another 30 seconds.
Add the sweet potatoes, diced tomatoes, black beans, quinoa, chili powder, cumin, and 8 cups of water. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and quinoa are nearly tender.
Stir in the peanut butter, corn and greens. Increase the heat to bring the mixture back to a simmer if necessary, and cook until the greens are tender.
Serve garnished with your choice of chopped cilantro, jalapeño pepper slices, green onion slices, and avocado slices, and add hot sauce, salt and pepper at the table.
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
Nutrition information per serving (with peanut butter, spinach and no added garnishes): 413 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 164 mg sodium, 1196 mg potassium, 70 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams fiber, 12 grams sugars, 18 grams protein, 256% Vitamin A, 42% Vitamin C, 15% calcium, 33% iron.