Food and Movement for Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month,

and with depression and anxiety at an all-time high in our society, it is no surprise that the importance of mental health is starting to peek its way into all kinds of conversations. With the impacts of COVID-19, recent events of racial unrest, rising prices of inflation, along with a whole host of other issues, it is no wonder that mental health is at the forefront of people’s minds. Recent studies have found that depression and anxiety in adults have increased from 2020 to 2021.

With all of these issues impacting how we think and how we feel, what else could be contributing to our blues?

Our daily health behaviors such as food choices and levels of movement can play a large role in how we feel mentally as well as physically. That’s right, your food choices and exercise habits may have the power to impact your mental health! Food and Nutrition Magazine reports that fueling your body and mind with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and vitamins and minerals can decrease the risk of depression, anxiety, and improve mood. Additionally, as noted in a recent article by The American Council on Exercise (ACE), regular exercise increases “feel good” hormones, improves self-esteem, and response to stress.

Here is a list of foods that research shows can impact your mental health:

Foods to Increase for your Mental Health:

    • Low sodium herbs and spices
    • Lean proteins (beans, nuts and seeds, turkey, chicken, seafood)
    • Dark leafy green vegetables
    • Broccoli
    • Berries
    • Squash
    • Melons
    • Yogurt
    • Other fruits and vegetables

Foods to Limit for your Mental Health:

    • Sugar and artificial sweeteners
    • Alcohol
    • Fast food
    • Fried foods
    • Highly processed foods (think French fries, chicken nuggets, donuts, cakes, cookies, and lunch meat)
    • Caffeine
    • Foods high in sodium

There are many benefits to choosing foods that provide more nutrition to the body and mind. By increasing whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, you may see improvements in the way you feel mentally. So, which foods will you add to maintain or improve your mental health?

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