healthful food nuts seeds

healthful food nuts seeds

Little things you do every day can add up and have a surprisingly big impact on your mental health.

Because a healthy cognitive system is essential to regulating mood, and certain nutrients have a profound impact on maintaining normal brain function, eating the right foods can improve your mood and energy levels.

Researchers have studied the association between foods and the brain and identified nutrients that can help combat depression and boost mood.

Let’s take a look at a few of those nutrients.


This mineral is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy. It supports a healthy immune system, prevents inflammation associated with certain cancers, boosts heart health, and could even cut your risk for a heart attack. Studies found that the mineral helps ward off depression and migraines.

Magnesium has been found to function in a similar manner as lithium, which is often prescribed for bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer.

In a study done at the Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D., women with magnesium deficiencies had higher heart rates and required more oxygen to do physical tasks than they did after their magnesium levels were restored.

Quick and easy sources:

  • almonds, hazelnuts, cashews,  pumpkin seeds (1/2 cup provides almost 100% of your daily requirement), sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, flaxseed, and pecans (you can make a trail mix with a combination of these)
  • dark chocolate (add chopped pieces to trail mix)
  • bananas, strawberries, blackberries, grapefruit, and figs
  • yogurt


Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body – not only does it play an important role in maintaining strong bones and teeth, but it is also required for proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system. Calcium also helps reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Low levels of calcium may play a role in premenstrual-syndrome-related depression.

Note: It IS possible to take too much calcium. According to WebMD, the amount of calcium you get from ALL sources (food and supplements) should not exceed 2,500 mg if you are 19 – 50 years of age, and 2,000 mg if you are 51 or older.

Some studies suggest that taking too much calcium can cause mood disorders, so don’t overdo it.

Quick and easy sources:

  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • milk
  • dried figs
  • leafy greens
  • almonds
  • oranges
  • sesame seeds
  • seaweed
  • broccoli

Vitamin D

Often called “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is unique in that it is a vitamin AND a hormone your body can make with help from the sun. But despite the ability to get vitamin D from food and the sun, an estimated 40%-75% of people are deficient.

Paired with calcium, vitamin D can helps keep bones strong.

Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D are associated with mood disorders and depression.

Most often, low levels of vitamin D are the result of indoor lifestyles, limited sun exposure, and inadequate intake of vitamin-D-rich foods.

Like calcium, it IS possible to take too much vitamin D. Your healthcare practitioner can give you a simple blood test to see if you are deficient.

Quick and easy sources:

  • salmon
  • tuna
  • mackerel
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • fortified foods like orange juice and milk

Some vitamin D researchers have found that somewhere between 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually leads to sufficient vitamin D synthesis. Indoor light therapy can help, too.


A trace mineral found in small amounts in the body, chromium plays an important role in increasing the brain’s levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and melatonin, which help regulate emotion and mood. Because chromium works directly with the brain’s mood regulators, it’s been found to be an effective treatment for depression.

We don’t require a lot of chromium to avoid deficiency.

Quick and easy sources:

  • broccoli
  • grape juice
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • basil
  • orange juice
  • turkey breast
  • apples
  • bananas
  • green beans


Iron is a mineral that is naturally present in many foods and is often added to others. It is important to health – it is involved in the transport of oxygen, supports energy levels, and aids muscle strength. Low levels of iron can lead to feelings of fatigue and depression. Iron deficiency appears more frequently in women than in men, especially women of childbearing age.

It is possible to take too much iron, so it is a good idea to see your healthcare provider before taking iron supplements.

Quick and easy sources:

  • fortified cereals and oatmeal
  • white beans
  • lentils
  • dark chocolate
  • raisins
  • pistachios
  • cashews
  • chickpeas
  • beef
  • spinach
  • turkey (dark meat)


Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is important for brain health (it contributes up to 18 percent of the brain’s weight!). The body does not naturally produce omega-3, so you need to get it from dietary or supplemental sources. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, memory decline, and depression.

Quick and easy sources:

  • chia seeds
  • flaxseed
  • pumpkin seeds
  • walnuts
  • Chinese broccoli
  • green leafy vegetables
  • fish (salmon, halibut, herring, mackerel, fresh tuna)
  • fortified foods (check labels on eggs, milk, juices, and yogurt)

B Vitamins and Folate

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine): sometimes called an “anti-stress” vitamin because it may strengthen the immune system and improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions. Dietary sources: pork, beef, poultry, legumes, black beans, seeds, nuts

Vitamin B3 (niacin): mild deficiency has been associated with depression. Dietary sources: beets, brewer’s yeast, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds, peanuts

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): helps the body make several neurotransmitters –  chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another. It is needed for normal brain development and function, and helps the body make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence mood, and melatonin, which helps regulate the body’s internal “clock.” Dietary sources: fortified cereal, chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, shrimp, milk, cheese, lentils, beans, hummus (chickpeas), spinach, carrots, brown rice, sunflower seeds, bananas

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): aids in the creation of red blood cells and nerves. Low levels of B12 can cause short-term fatigue, slowed reasoning, and paranoia, and are associated with depression. Dietary sources: fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, milk, Swiss cheese, and fortified breakfast cereals

Folic acid (folate, also called Vitamin B9): crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. Studies show that folate paired with B12 can help treat depression. Dietary sources: spinach, dark leafy greens, asparagus, turnips, beets, Brussels sprouts, beans, avocado, milk


Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in nearly every cell of the body and plays an important role in immune system functioning. Low levels of zinc in the diet can lead to a variety of ailments, including a weakened immune system, loss of appetite, anemia, hair loss, mental lethargy, and depression.

Studies have shown zinc can help decrease depressive symptoms, as it can improve the response of antidepressants while reducing the side effects of antidepressant medication. A lack of zinc can trigger depressive behaviors.

Quick and easy sources:

  • roasted pumpkin seeds
  • cashews
  • pine nuts
  • almonds
  • dark chocolate
  • cheese
  • oatmeal
  • beef
  • oysters
  • pork

So, the next time you are feeling down and are scouring your environment for candy or potato chips, or you are thinking about grabbing your keys to run out for donuts, review this list and see which foods you can eat instead.

Your mind – and your body – will thank you.

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