Being “healthy” is more than being disease-free. Health is a state of complete physical, psychological and social wellness – a goal that anyone can achieve with a proper diet. By Arthur Tsao
Over the past decade, consumers worldwide have become exponentially more aware of mental health and its connection to physical and physiological wellness. As a result, the demand for nutritional food products and supplements aimed at improving mental health has drastically risen.
To make the most of this new trend, many companies have begun to incorporate healthy nutrients into their food products, specifically those proven to positively affect the brain. Perhaps the most well- known of these nutrients is Omega-3, a fatty acid found primarily in fish oil.
Omega-3 has been proven to not only improve brain function but also aid a variety of other bodily functions. The two key types of Omega-3 acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), perform distinct, important functions. By improving blood circulation and lowering cholesterol, EPA effectively inhibits the development of diseases like cerebral thrombosis, cerebral haemorrhage and hypertension. DHA, meanwhile, serves as an important component in the development of brain nerves; by activating brain cells, DHA can improve brain cognition in both children and adults.
DHA additionally possesses phosphatidylserine, a beneficial phospholipid that works in the cell membrane. Commonly regarded as a “smart nutrient” or the “brain-gold” of DHA, phosphatidylserine facilitates the function of nerve cells, regulates the conduction of nerve impulses, and enhances the brain’s memory capacity. Once absorbed, phosphatidylserine quickly works in the body to facilitate blood coagulation and cell signalling from the membrane, thereby helping the brain run effectively.
Research shows that the average person needs between 100 and 300 milligrams of pure phosphatidylserine per day. This standard, however, is rarely met. In reality, the average consumer falls short of this standard by 70 to 150 milligrams (for vegetarians, this disparity is 200 to 250 milligrams). A deficiency of phosphatidylserine in our diets can hinder the biochemical functions of our brain’s hippocampus. It is therefore extremely important – especially for vegetarians, low-fat or low-cholesterol eaters, and older people – to guarantee sufficient phosphatidylserine intake.
These mental health benefits, however, are neither limited to fatty acids nor fish. Lecithin, for example, is another healthy, utilitarian nutrient with no age limits on its supplementation. Lecithin helps to alleviate fatigue and improve brain cognition, as well as repair damaged brain cells and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Beyond those listed above, there are many accessible and delicious foods that can boost energy and improve mental wellness:
Bananas: Known as the “happy fruit” in Europe, bananas possess several important chemicals that can actually make one feel happier. This starchy fruit contains amino acids, which can help calm the nerves; alkaloids, which engender feelings of self-confidence and empowerment; and both tryptophan and vitamin B6, which help the brain generate serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps relay signals across the brain. As a good source of magnesium, too, which aids muscle relaxation, bananas are exceedingly important for our brains and our nervous systems.
Grapefruit: Beyond its spirit-enhancing fragrance, grapefruits are rich in vitamin C and can effectively help eliminate fatigue, keep red blood cell concentration, and fortify our immune systems. In addition, grapefruits can alleviate stress and depressive symptoms, thereby making us feel relaxed, content, and clear-headed.
Walnuts: These dense, hard-shelled fruits pack more than just a nutty taste. With 86% of their fat composed of unsaturated fatty acids, walnuts can reduce the risk of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease. Walnuts also provide several important nutrients, including but not limited to iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B1 and fiber.
Chocolate: Conventional wisdom holds that chocolate helps lift our spirits. Believe it or not, this is true! Chocolate is composed of theobromine, a healthy anti-sedative, as well as phenethylamine and magnesium, which serve to improve mood and alleviate feelings of depression. And the common saying that chocolate makes you feel like you’re falling in love? That’s true, too. Chocolate contains flavanol, a class of flavonoid that boosts blood flow in the brain within a mere two to three hours, thereby protecting our brains and making us feel more emotionally – and romantically – acute.
Milk: Another piece of conventional wisdom holds that a glass of milk before bed can help you fall asleep faster. This is true as well! Milk contains many physiological activators such as lactoferrin, immunoglobulin, and bioactive peptides. Produced during the digestion process by protease hydrolysis, bioactive peptides function to calm our nerves, alleviate hypertension, and build our immunity to bacteria. Milk also contains a high amount of calcium, a natural sedative that simultaneously strengthens our bones while reducing the excitability of our nerve cells and elevating our moods. Calcium deficiency, unfortunately, can disrupt normal physical or mental functions, leading to migraines, irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. It is therefore extremely important to drink milk.
Vitamin B: Found in healthy grains such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice, Vitamin B (including B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid and niacin) and its variants are very important for combatting stress. They help maintain the stability of our nervous systems, stimulate metabolism, and improve our moods. Rich in complex carbohydrates, whole-wheat bread and rice can also release energy slowly, thereby stabilizing the levels of glucose in our blood and keeping us energetic for longer periods of time.
And finally, although this may not be a food, one of the most important things you can do for your wellbeing is…. Exercise!
Once you’re finished, go to the spa for a massage and a facial treatment. This will help you relax your body and your mind, thereby fueling your appetite for a nutritious, balanced diet.