Alex Moore is our guest contributor bringing us the latest plant-based mental health news. He has a passion for life and is knowledgeable about how to support vegan mental health.
More and more people nowadays struggle with mental health. Due to the fast-paced and demanding nature of modern life, many find themselves cracking under pressure. New stressors arise with each day that passes, and only the strongest individuals manage to cope. And unfortunately, poor dietary choices seem to have a lot to do with that as well.
Best Vegan Mental Health Foods
Recent research has found a strong link between nourishment and wellness of the mind. There are quite a few nutrients that are indispensable for our mental health, such as folic acid or omega-3 fatty acids. As you may already know by now, these are customarily found in animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy.
Fortunately for vegans and vegetarians, they are also present in non-animal sources. Therefore, keeping your mood in check while respecting your plant-based principles is totally possible if you have the right approach and integrate the following foods. Here are the three most surprising alternatives that improve your mental health.
1. Raw Nuts
When it comes to vegan alternatives to brain foods, nothing beats raw nuts. In fact, they contain many of the nutrients that are essential for mental health, such as selenium, zinc, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and amino acids. This makes them a staple of any plant-based diet in which animal products are to be avoided.
Some of the tastiest and most nutritious varieties include almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia, walnuts, and peanuts. Any of these is an equally good source of the aforementioned beneficial substances, which is why you should start consuming them as soon as possible if you want to enhance your mood and relieve symptoms of mental illness.
Without any shred of doubt, the best way to incorporate them into your daily diet is by eating a handful in the afternoon as a healthy snack. Be careful not to go overboard though, because it can rapidly lead to weight gain. Just like most bite-sized snacks, nuts also tend to be addictive, so don’t fool yourself that you can eat more just because they’re organic and unprocessed.
Nevertheless, if you’re feeling adventurous and you are willing to experiment with your dishes a bit, you can also try adding them in recipes. Asian cuisine is known for experimenting with various takes on this, so next time you make a stir-fry or salad, try throwing in a spoonful or two of cashews and peanuts.
2. Leafy Greens
Folate, as well as other B complex vitamins, are essential to mental health. Studies have shown that people who are depressed or respond poorly to medication for this condition usually exhibit a B9 deficiency due to poor dietary choices. This nutrient is generally found in meats, eggs, cheese and other dairy products.
While some of this might work for vegetarians, what are vegans to do in this situation? The answer is simple: consume plenty of dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli. They are one of the best vegetal sources of folic acid that money can buy, and they are relatively easy to introduce to any dish.
Serve them fresh in salads or steamed as a savory side dish. And their benefits for mental health don’t end here. In fact, some of them contain another nutrient that is essential for proper brain function. We’re talking about selenium, which helps fight symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as reduce fatigue and improve mood.
The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements reports that organ and muscle meats are rich sources of selenium, as is seafood. However, vegans and vegetarians are morally obliged to steer clear of them, but spinach and broccoli come to the rescue in this situation. They represent the best plant-based sources of selenium one can include in their diet.
3. Whole Grains
Just like any other organ, your brain needs to be energized during the day. Its main fuel source is glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. One of the best dietary sources of this lies in whole grains such as rice, barley, oats, wheat, rye, millet, quinoa and so on. Simply put, most cereals and pseudocereals are an excellent reserve of carbs.
Their contents have been known to improve mood, according to Psychology Today. This is because they are rich in complex carbs rather than simple ones, which are preferable because they release energy in a sustainable way. While the latter act in a similar way to harmful substances such as drugs, the former satiates your needs coherently throughout the day.
Furthermore, they are a significant supply of dietary fiber and protein that is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly. The most effective way to include whole grains in your meals is by consuming wheat or rye-based bread. Another option would be to try eating rice and quinoa more often, either as a side dish or as part of a more complex recipe.
Fortunately, the two work amazingly when stir-fried together with green and red vegetables such as bean sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers or zucchini, as well as other ingredients such as mushrooms or tofu. Top the dish off with some assorted spices and soy sauce for an Asian flavor that is bound to make things more interesting, and you’ve got yourself a meal.
Raw nuts, leafy greens, and whole grains are the three non-animal sources of nutrients that are indispensable for mental health. By integrating them aptly into your vegan or vegetarian diet, you will ensure that you get all the protein, carbs, amino acids, folate and omega-3 fatty acids that you need for a happy and vigorous life.
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Author Bio: Alex Moore is a psychology undergraduate and blogger who advocates for mental health awareness in general and a better understanding of schizophrenia in particular. You’ll typically find him contributing to Schizlife. Alex is very active on Twitter @alex_moore01
If you live a plant-based lifestyle make sure you are getting the key nutrients for the best vegan mental health. Let us know what vegan mental health ideas you have tried and how it’s working for you.