When it comes to eating well, many people think of what they should avoid. But a more productive approach is to focus on what they should add to their diet. This includes fruits, vegetables and high-quality proteins as well as healthy fats and whole grains. These nutritious foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep your body functioning at its best.
Often, a diet low in these nutrients can lead to a variety of health problems including depression and anxiety, reports the American Psychological Association. Nutrition is a powerful part of mental wellness, and the good news is that there are many easy ways to eat healthier. These 10 foods should be a part of your daily diet, and most are easy to find at your local grocery store or farmers market.
1. Leafy Greens
Eating a variety of dark greens, like collards, spinach and kale, helps you get more plant-based fiber. The fiber helps reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also help lower and regulate blood sugar. Leafy greens are also rich in heart-healthy nitrates, which promote blood flow and lower high blood pressure. You can eat them raw in salads or cooked as sides dishes, soups and casseroles.
2. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, are heart-healthy and can also lower cholesterol. Try to eat 1-2 servings of fatty fish per week.
Low-sugar berries like strawberries and blueberries can boost your immune system and prevent disease by providing antioxidants. They are also rich in vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber. They are perfect as a snack or added to a smoothie, yogurt bowl or salad.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a nutrient powerhouse, and they’re high in both vitamin A and potassium. They are a great source of carotenoids, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and dementia. They can be roasted, baked or mashed. 5. Beans
Legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas) are a great source of protein. They also provide iron, zinc, folate and magnesium. They are low-sodium and can be added to a wide variety of meals, from soups to stews and casseroles.
High in monounsaturated fats, which can improve cardiovascular health, avocados are full of vitamin B6, C and K. They also contain folic acid, which protects against the buildup of homocysteine, a compound that restricts important neurotransmitters that impact mental wellness. Folic acid also supports the production of serotonin and helps prevent a depressive mood.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, and it’s also low in sodium. Look for a brand that is non-fat or low in fat.
Fresh, frozen and dried fruits are an essential part of a balanced diet. While some are higher in sugar than others, they all offer a variety of nutrients, including potassium, vitamin A and C and antioxidants. If you want to limit calories, choose a small portion size, such as half a mango or a single piece of chocolate.