Most of the population has dealt with the uncertainty brought by the pandemic by turning to things that comfort them such as food that calms them or watching television shows that take their worries away. Due to the onslaught of new factors that contribute to their stress, people’s diets have changed significantly. Stress and Anxiety levels due to working from home or teaching children themselves, most people find themselves at a loss for peace and comfort.
Dr. Uma Naidoo is a director of the lifestyle and nutritional psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital; she is a member of the faculty at Harvard’s Medical School. He explains that it is natural for people to reach consume comfort food when feeling unsettled or having negative emotions during a time such as this. Being a psychiatrist dealing specifically with nutrition, she guides people about how they can incorporate different habits in their lives to have a good mental state.
What you consume has power over your mental health as well as your body. Naidoo emphasizes the importance of taking steps to improve one’s mental health during this uncertain period.
Naidoo suggests 5 kinds of foods to help people reduce stressful feelings as well as anxiety:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Studies prove that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids has the power to decrease anxiety in people, says Naidoo. Experts describe the effect of omega-3 to be anti-inflammatory on our brains; it also helps our bodies sleep better. This is particularly significant because poor sleep such as insomnia is usually linked to Anxiety
People can easily find this substance in fishes like tuna or salmon. Those who eat a vegan or plant-based diet can opt for walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds.
Most people would think spices only infuse flavor into the food we eat but some spices are known to instead also have an inflammatory and antioxidant property to them. This means consuming such spices can improve your mood and keep your brain healthy. Studies also show that spices like Turmeric, for instance, can decrease symptoms of depression, says Naidoo.
People can incorporate turmeric in their diets by adding a few teaspoons to any meal they are consuming such as teas, salad dressings, or soups.
- Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber not only helps digestion and helps you feel full, studies have found that consuming fiber can lead to a decreased risk or mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety. Fiber also has the power to help reduce inflammation in the brain which tends to be rather high in those suffering from anxiety.
People can add vegetables and fruits to their diets such as apples, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and bananas. Grains like brown rice or oatmeal are also rich sources of dietary fiber.
- Fermented Foods
The latest research has found that gut health is linked to brain health and therefore probiotic and prebiotic foods are beneficial for the balancing and nourishing of gut bacteria. This can eventually lead to the lowering of anxiety as well as stress.
Naidoo says people do not need to take supplements and should instead opt for fermented foods such as yogurt containing active and live culture, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, and miso.
- Vitamin D
A vitamin D deficient brain contributes to depression, anxiety, and decreased cognitive function. Vitamin D consumptions therefore can help protect neurons and decrease inflammation.
Although most people link vitamin D to sun exposure, foods like fortified milk, mushrooms, egg yolks, and fishes like salmon are also rich in the vitamin and can be easily incorporated for a healthier mind.