Since going Vegan 2018, I have developed a new relationship with food and awareness that comes with knowing that you are no longer part of violence against animals. The feeling is indescribably. Once the lens through which you see the world changes, nothing is ever the same again.
Adapting a Vegan lifestyle can immensely impact your mind and mental health positively by reducing the risk of anxiety, stress and depression. This is due to certain nutrients found in plant-based foods that elevate your mood, reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains can help treat and protect against many mental health issues including depression, stress and anxiety.
Fruits and Vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates which are great for brain health. Complex carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables helps to release energy into our bodies slowly, which enhances our mood over time.
Fruits are life savers and are super delicious. They are packed with several essential minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, that are great for our overall well-being and mental health.
Fruits like goji berries, strawberries, cranberries and blueberries, have some of the greatest amounts of antioxidants and flavonoids which have shown to have mood-boostibg properties.
Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation, according to a study published in March 2015 in JAMA psychiatry, severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. Vegetables are loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals and can aid in the synthesis of serotonin also known as the feel-good hormone. They are particularly high in folic acid and iron. Studies have shown that adequate folate levels can help protect against dementia and depression
Sea vegetables like spirulina, kelp and seaweed are awesome at boosting serotonin levels and are rich in iodine which is important for thyroid function.
Superfoods such as kale, waterleaf, spinach and arugula can do wonders for your brain as they are dense in crucial nutrients. Researchers suggest adding half a cup of cooked or raw greens to your daily diet for optimal brain health and to delay dementia.
Nuts and Seeds
All nuts and seeds contain tryptophan that the body converts into serotonin. They speed up chemical reactions in the body, as well as protect your mental health. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are Important for brain function. Nuts are brain food. Omega-3 fatty acid is known to build cell membranes in the body and the brain. Consuming nuts daily is linked to better cognitive functioning. It contributes to mental sharpness and reduce risk of cognitive decline. Walnuts and Brazil nuts contains adequate amount of selenium which helps to boost your mental health. Someone deficient in selenium often feel depressed and anxious.
Flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are especially good for your brain because they’re rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Enjoy a handful of your favourite type of nut or seed to add healthy fats, fibre and protein. Other seeds includes pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds etc.
Whole grains are high in fibre and are really good for you. A vegan diet high in fibre will feed your beneficial gut bacteria, which significantly improve your mental health. Whole grains contain a type of amino acid that makes your body produce serotonin -also known as the “happy hormone”. Serotonin calm the mind, improve mood, and keep your sleep cycle on track.
Whole grains also contain B-complex vitamins and vitamin E which helps to fight depression. Sorghum, oats, qunioa, farro, barley, wildrice, amaranth, fonio and buckwheat are all good choices of whole grains.
Zinc is very important for mental cognitive functions and beans has it all. Peas and beans like chickpeas, black beans, lentils, soybeans, pinto beans, Lima beans, kidney beans and black-eye beans are really high in fiber and are good for our mental health as vegans.