The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Mental health is intrinsically linked to your diet. Studies have shown that certain nutrients and deficiencies are increasingly responsible for the health of your brain.
Here are six dietary factors that can exert a profound influence over your mental wellness.
Most of us don’t get enough omega-3s in our diets. However, omega-3s are incredibly therapeutic in the brain. Anxiety and depression have been linked to low omega-3 levels in the brain. The developing brains of children have an especially strong need for omega-3s. Consuming cold-water fish or fish oil are great sources of omega-3s DHA and EPA. Otherwise, supplements derived from algae are a good, absorbable option for vegetarians.
2. Vitamin D
Another common deficiency in the northern hemisphere, vitamin D doesn’t get enough credit in the body. Every single tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors. Studies have shown that vitamin D plays a huge role in the prevention and treatment of major and minor depression and especially in Seasonal Affective Disorder. Supplementation is the best option for those in the northern hemisphere, where the body can only create vitamin D from sunlight for about half the year.
3. B vitamins
Low brain uptake levels of B12 have been shown in those with autism and schizophrenia. Studies have shown that supplementation of B-complex vitamins over a year had a significant effect of the moods of women studied. Animal products, like eggs and meat, are great sources of B12. Vegan can get B vitamins from fortified foods, certain produce, grains, beans and supplementation. However, B12 is mostly found in animal products, so vegans may want to consider focusing on fortified foods or supplementation.
There is a higher prevalence of zinc deficiency among those with psychiatric disorders, including depression. As depression grows, zinc deficiency seems to get more severe, signifying a link between this important nutrient and mental health. Those with overly processed or vegetarian diets are at higher risk for zinc deficiency. Meat, eggs and seafood provide highly bioavailable sources of zinc. The phytic acid in legumes and whole grains makes zinc less absorbable, although the enzymatic reaction of yeast in leavened whole grain breads reduces phytic acid levels, making sturdy whole grain breads a good source of zinc for vegetarians.
A deficiency of iron can increase the risk of mental disorders, especially in children whose central neurological and endocrine systems require iron for healthy development. Iron deficiency has been linked to autism, bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD. To absorb iron most efficiently, consume it from heme sources—meat, poultry and fish—in conjunction with non-heme sources. Non-heme sources, found in plant foods, are less easily absorbed by the body, unless they are paired with heme sources. However, if you are a vegetarian, vitamin C can boost absorption of plant-based sources of iron six-fold, making it even more absorbable than the heme iron found in meat.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the brain-gut connection. The bacteria in your gut has a profound impact on your mental health. Studies have shown time and time again that those with imbalanced levels of certain gut bacteria are at higher risk for mental disorders like depression. In a study, scientists swapped the gut bacteria of adventurous strains of mice and timid strains of mice. Intriguingly, when the bacteria were swapped, the general traits of adventurousness and timidness were swapped as well. While this is not necessarily the case in humans, this study is a true testament to the power our gut bacteria has over the brain. Be sure to regularly consume foods rich in probiotics like sauerkraut and yogurt or consume a supplement to ensure a variety of good bacteria get into your system.
The nutrients in our diets are our best medicine. Try to make your diet as rounded and balanced as possible and supplement as needed. The foods we eat are our first line of defense. If you are one of the millions who suffer from depression or another mental illness, talk to your doctor or a holistic nutritionist about how you can use your diet to improve your mental health.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jennifer Molidor, PhD
Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.
Trump Makes Strange Claim About Water Efficient Toilets: 'People Are Flushing Toilets 10 Times, 15 Times'
President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.
By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
- New Evidence Suggests Ancient Egypt Was Brought Down by ... ›
- Climate Change Could Set Off Volcanoes - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Has 18 'Very High Threat' Volcanoes - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Discover 91 Volcanoes Hidden Under Antarctic Ice Sheet ... ›