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Top 10 Foods You Should Eat Every Day

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The food we eat has a powerful impact on our mental health. Therefore, a nutritious diet that supports young adult well-being includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats—foods you should eat everyday. The nutrients in these foods help control the chemicals in the body that regulate our emotions.

A healthy diet for young adults has other positive mental health effects. For one, it builds a lifelong habit of self-care. In addition, healthy meals enhance energy and mental clarity. There is also said to be a connection between food and mood, whereby eating healthier can improve overall mood. That’s essential at all stages of life, but particularly important during young adulthood when you’re starting a new job, attending college or university, developing new relationships, and being socially and physically active.

Top 10 Foods to Eat Every Day

Wondering how to stay healthy in your 20s, in mind and body? Maybe you’ve asked the question, “What should I eat everyday?” Hundreds of studies have explored how food affects your mood, and researchers have zeroed in on specific foods you should eat everyday. Here are the top 10 foods for mental health that young adults can incorporate into their diets on a regular basis.

1. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 1,769 milligrams of omega-3s. These nutrients play a role in the functioning of serotonin and dopamine, both critical to mood and mental health.

Furthermore, chia seeds contain magnesium, which is sometimes referred to as “the stress antidote.” Some doctors and scientists believe that depression rates are increasing because we no longer get enough magnesium in our diet. 

Magnesium treatment improved symptoms of depression in as few as seven days.

Researchers Karen and George Eby have published multiple case studies in which magnesium treatment improved symptoms of depression in as few as seven days. Therefore, it makes sense to incorporate chia seeds into your diet as one of the foods you should eat everyday

 2. Walnuts

Walnuts are another rich, plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to impacting hormones, omega-3s support overall brain health. Deficiency in DHA (the chief omega) is associated with mental health disorders, including depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Moreover, numerous studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and reduce depression symptoms.  

2019 meta-analysis looking at 26 studies found that certain types of omega-3 fatty acids were particularly effective in improving depression.

3. Broccoli

Scientists have found that low folic acid is associated with depression. As a result, folate is an important food for mental health. And broccoli is high in folate, as well as fiber and vitamin C.

Furthermore, fiber is what’s known as a “prebiotic.” Prebiotics create a friendly environment for probiotic bacteria to flourish in the gut. And gut health is important for mental health, because the gut helps control our production of serotonin.

Furthermore, a recent study suggests that broccoli sprouts are especially effective in creating a healthy environment for gut microbes. That’s because broccoli sprouts contain powerful antioxidants. Therefore, they help decrease inflammation in the gut. As a result, they alleviate symptoms of depression.

Moreover, broccoli contains selenium. Some studies suggest that low levels of selenium might contribute to depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Therefore, broccoli is one of the best foods to fight depression. 

4. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale, collard greens, and beet greens contain a wealth of nutrients, including the following:

  • Iron 
  • Calcium 
  • Magnesium 
  • Potassium 
  • Folate
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Folate (a form of vitamin B9), Magnesium, and Omega-3s all support mental health and brain health. Furthermore, studies show that deficiencies in folate may contribute to depression, fatigue, and insomnia. So, it’s important to get lots of leafy greens, among other foods you should eat everyday, in order to maintain healthy folate levels. 

5. Yogurt

Yogurt is a cultured (fermented) food. Therefore, it contains billions of probiotic bacteria, which make it an excellent food for mental as well as physical health. Probiotics help break down nutrients so the body can absorb them better. Consequently, we can digest our food better. As a result, the body and brain are able to more easily access the nutrients in our food. And recent research shows that our emotional well-being relies in part on information that travels from the gut to the brain. 

Consequently, researchers have found that people with healthy and diverse gut microbes are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show that having a healthy gut can reduce social anxiety and lower our reactions to stress.

Nutritionists recommend switching between different brands of yogurt in order to get a variety of bacteria. It’s also important to eat yogurt that contains live cultures. In addition, yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin D. Our levels of vitamin D affect our levels of serotonin, which in turn impact mood. In addition, vitamin D contains specific proteins that induce a sense of well-being and relaxation, which is why it’s one of the foods you should eat everyday. A 2019 study found that the incidence of depression in individuals with vitamin D deficiency was four times higher than in those who were not vitamin D deficient (20.4 percent vs. 4.2 percent).

6. Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and other berries contain potent antioxidants. Therefore, they are particularly supportive for mental health. 

review study of 115 articles confirmed the link between antioxidant levels and depression.

In depressed patients, antioxidant levels were lower than those of a control group who did not have a mental health diagnosis. Furthermore, antioxidant levels increased following treatment for depression. 

Another study showed that antioxidants improved mental health in just six weeks. A total of 80 people with stress-induced psychiatric disorders ate a diet high in antioxidants for 42 days. Subsequently, researchers found the participants had a clear increase in the level of antioxidants in their blood. And they also had a significant reduction in anxiety and depression. 

7. Avocados

Avocados are another source of healthy fats, which help the brain function well. As a matter of fact, three-fourths of the calories of an avocado come from fat. This is mostly “good” fat, or monounsaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. 

Moreover, avocados also contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that has a powerful impact on mood and mental health. It helps to balance hormones and aids in serotonin production. Consequently, eating foods containing tryptophan improves mood and overall mental stability.

In addition, avocados contain folate, as well as vitamin B6. This particular B vitamin supports tryptophan production. Therefore, avocados are an example of foods that boost your mood. 

Healthy green salad and young woman eating a salad at a laptop | Newport Institute
Healthy green salad in lap and young woman eating a salad at a laptop | Newport Institute

8. Tomatoes

Because tomatoes contain folic acid, they belong on a list of foods you should eat everyday.

Moreover, folic acid helps prevent a buildup of homocysteine in the body. This chemical restricts important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. As a result, too much homocysteine can have a negative effect on mental health. Consequently, folic acid supports a healthy balance of neurotransmitters. 

Know the Facts

Researchers have found that a folate deficiency and/or a diet low in folate is often linked with depression.

Tomatoes are also rich in alpha-lipoic acid, which appears to enhance mental health as well. Because this acid helps the body convert glucose into energy, it therefore stabilizes mood. 

9. Mushrooms 

You might not have been expecting mushrooms on a list of foods you should eat everyday, but turns out they are a mental health superfood. Because they help to balance our blood sugar levels, they positively impact mood. When blood sugar is unbalanced, we experience a repeated series of highs and lows. Consequently, this creates unnecessary stress on the body and on our emotions.

In addition, mushrooms promote healthy gut bacteria. And about 95 percent of our serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, a healthy gut supports healthy production of the hormones that control mood.

10. Beans

Because they contain fiber, beans also help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Therefore, this positively impacts mood. Beans also contain tryptophan, which supports healthy serotonin production. As a result, it is a great food for mental health. 

In conclusion, nutrition is a powerful part of maintaining mental health. And these 10 foods you should eat everyday can help ward off or even reverse depression and anxiety. New research underlines this evidence-based approach: A study published in the fall of 2019, one of the first done with young adults, showed that a healthy diet can reduce symptoms of depression in this age demographic. After just three weeks of eating well, participants who ate a healthy diet reported significantly lower depression symptoms than the control group. 

Ultimately, understanding how food affects your mood gives young adults a head start in achieving wellness. Along with enjoying their healthy meals, young people can use them as part of a strategy for staying happy and healthy in both body and mind.

To learn more about how to build healthy habits and get guidance on other ways to support your mental health, contact our Newport Institute experts today. We’re here to help. 

Sources

Trans Psych. 2019:9:190.

Indian J Psych. 2012 Jul–Sep; 54(3): 244–247.

J Psych Research. 2017 Dec; 95:9–18.

J Nutri Bio. 2016 Oct;39.

PLoS One. 2015 Oct 7;10(10):e0138904.

Mental Health / June 4, 2020

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