Foods and Recipes for Better Mental Health

recipes for better mental health

Some people think that depression is a natural part of growing older. The truth is that depression is a treatable medical condition that can happen at any age, though the CDC points out that depression is more common in the elderly.

Fortunately, studies show that less than 5% of seniors suffer from major depression; however, about 13.5% of those who need home health care report being depressed. That could be because those who have chronic conditions that affect their day-to-day functions are more prone to depression[1]. Limited physical mobility is also a factor that can lead to anxiety, which tends to go hand-in-hand with the blues[2].

The good news is that anxiety and depression can be quite effectively treated. But many believe that the only options are talk therapy and medications. While these are certainly effective and perhaps necessary, there are other elements to treating depression and anxiety that often go overlooked. One of those is the food you put into your body.

Are your ready to feel better? Get ready to make a grocery list!

How Food and Your Brain are Connected

A well-balanced diet can do all sorts of good things, including provide you with mental clarity, improved energy, a better attention span, and improved concentration. But a diet that is lacking in the essentials can lead to fatigue, slowed reaction time, more difficulty with making decisions, and even stress and depression. The typical American diet certainly doesn’t help matters much, as it tends to be heavy in refined flours and sugars, processed foods, and artificial ingredients that can trick the brain into believing you need more and more of them[3].

Anxiety and depression can be exacerbated or even caused, in some part, by eating a not-so-great diet. One reason is that sugar and other processed foods can lead to inflammation in the body and brain. Inflammation is associated with mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, according to a report in Psychiatric Times.

But even if a person doesn’t suffer from inflammation, there are other factors that can come into play, such as a fluctuating appetite during times of stress. Eating too much or too little can be associated with mood disorders as well, according to the American Psychological Association. It’s natural for humans to reach for anything that lights up the brain’s “reward centers” and makes us feel better – such as a big bowl of ice cream when you’re feeling lonely.

But it might also be a physical reaction to food (or the lack of it) in the body that affects your mood. Studies have found that the bacteria living in your gut can produce neurochemicals that flow to your brain and regulate your mood. In fact, 95% of the body’s serotonin – a mood stabilizer – is created by gut bacteria[4]. When you’re not eating well, your gut bacteria suffer and so do your serotonin levels. That can lead to a low mood or even depression.

As we get older, it’s important to become even more proactive about our health than we were in the past. That might mean keeping up with doctor’s appointments, maintaining a healthy weight, investing in a medical alert system with fall detection, and of course, eating the right foods.

But what are the right food choices? Let’s take a look at some foods that help you to feel your best.

Choosing the Right Foods

The elderly need certain carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and strong. You can get these through the traditional three meals each day, though experts recommend eating smaller meals throughout the day to keep up your energy[5] (and greater energy can help you stave off anxiety, depression, and some of the problems associated with low mood, such as fatigue).

Here’s what you need[6]:

·         Lean proteins. These provide a boost of energy that helps you think clearly. This might include fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, soybeans, seeds and nuts. Because seniors may have dietary restrictions based on existing medical conditions, be sure to ask your doctor which are the right choices for you.

·         Fatty acids. These are essential for your brain and nervous system to work properly. They can be found in fish, eggs, nuts, and meat.

·         Complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are divided into two groups: Simple and complex. Simple carbs are those that you get from sugar, such as candy or soda – they give you a quick rush of energy and then you crash and tend to feel poorly. But complex carbohydrates are those that keep you fuller for longer without as many calories. Examples include starchy veggies, quinoa, millet, and brown rice.

If this sounds similar to the Mediterranean Diet, it’s because it is. An analysis of studies on diets and their impact on clinical depression was conducted by Molecular Psychology, which found that the Mediterranean Diet was among the best for reducing the impact of mood disorders.

If you’re curious about the foods that might best reduce or prevent depressive symptoms, foods that rose to the top of the list included oysters, mussels, various seafood, organ meats, leafy greens, peppers, lettuces, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli.

Some Recipes to Improve Mood

If you want a boost in your mood right away as well as one that sticks with you over time, consider changing your diet to something that’s friendlier to your mental health. These recipes can get you started.

Happy Scrambled Eggs

A lack of B vitamins, magnesium, and iron can lead to serious fatigue. That fatigue can put you at greater risk of falls, which is why a mobile medical alert wireless solution with fall detection is an excellent idea.

This recipe packs a serious punch of B vitamins to start your day off right.

·         4 oz. fresh spinach

·         4 large eggs

·         1 tbsp. butter

·         2 ounces Feta cheese

·         Dash of salt

·         Dash of pepper

·         Dash of red pepper (if desired)

Chop the spinach into small pieces. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the seasonings, and whisk well.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and stir gently until softened. Push the spinach to the edges of the pan and pour the eggs into the center. Gently fold the eggs as they cook, slowly incorporating the spinach. Cook until the eggs are set. Slide them out of the pan onto a plate and top with the Feta cheese.

Sweetest Peanut Butter Oats

Is dark chocolate good for you? You bet it is! It has plenty of antioxidants that can boost your mood[7]. It helps that chocolate tastes delicious and can elevate any food to a higher level, such as the magic it works with these oats.

·         ½ cup rolled oats

·         ½ cup milk of your choice

·         1 large ripe banana

·         1 tbsp. cocoa powder

·         1 tbsp. peanut butter

·         1 ½ tbsp. dark chocolate chips

·         1 tbsp. nuts of your choice

Combine the oats, milk, banana, and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Simmer until the oats have plumped up and the milk is absorbed. Spoon into a bowl, blend in the peanut butter, and top with the chips and nuts.

Crunchy Salmon

Among the fatty acids your body needs, Omega-3 is pretty easy to get through fish and nuts. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of depression and assist with improving mood. Incorporate this recipe into your diet now and then to help you get plenty of these fatty acids in your diet.

·         2 pieces salmon filets

·         1 tbsp. maple syrup

·         2 tsp. stone ground mustard

·         ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts

·         Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a pan with parchment paper. Place the salmon skin-side down on the paper and sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired. Whisk the maple syrup and mustard together and brush it evenly over the salmon. Press the nuts into the top of the salmon with your fingertips. Bake the fish until it is lightly browned and flakes easily with a fork, which should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Strawberry and Blueberry Caprese Salad

Studies have found that fruit and veggies have a strong impact on mental health. They can even out your mood, make you feel more optimistic, and reduce anxiety and depression[8]. In addition to having fruit for dessert or adding a side of veggies to every meal, try this salad that has an extra shot of protein from the cheese.

·         4 cups leafy greens

·         ½ cup fresh basil

·         1 cup sliced strawberries

·         ½ cup blueberries

·         1 cup of mozzarella balls (or a large ball, diced into small pieces)

·         ½ cup balsamic vinegar

·         1 tbsp. honey

Cut or tear the greens and the basil into small pieces. Toss with the strawberries, blueberries, and the mozzarella.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the vinegar and the honey. Cook the mixture over medium heat to reduce it by a third. This usually takes about five minutes. Remember to stir the whole time, as the mixture can easily burn. When the glaze has reduced, drizzle it over the salad and serve immediately.

Tips for Healthy Eating for Seniors

In addition to adding in the right foods, these tips can make it easier to boost your mental health.

·         When cooking with fats, choose avocado, coconut, or olive oils.

·         Keep healthy snacks on hand, like hard-boiled eggs, fruit, and nuts.

·         Make a grocery list before you head to the store, and never go to the store when you’re hungry.

·         Wear a medical alert pendant when in the kitchen, and opt for on-the-go medical alert technology when you head to the grocery store.

·         Try to avoid processed foods and snacks, such as chips, candy, soda, and the like.

·         Don’t eat in front of the television, as this can lead to overeating. Sit down in a relaxing place to slowly savor your food.

·         Keep a food journal and note your mood throughout the day. This allows you to look back after a few weeks and see what foods contributed to low mood and which ones made you feel better.

·         If you’re stressed out, write down your feelings before you eat. This can help if you tend to overeat.

·         If stress ruins your appetite, have five or six small meals a day, one every few hours. This helps ensure you’re eating enough.

·         Finally, never hesitate to get professional help if you are dealing with depression or anxiety.

Staying healthy in every way demands that seniors be proactive about their needs. This can include reaching out to a counselor or therapist for assistance with mental health, eating the right foods to help you feel better, and exercising on a regular basis. It can also include keeping appointments with doctors and specialists, taking all medication on time (and if you need a medication reminder and organizer, Alert1 Medical Alert Systems offers this handy solution), and reaching out to family and friends to keep your social circle busy. 

Taking good care of yourself is vital, especially as you grow older and face potential mental health issues. Do what you can to take care of yourself at home, starting with these easy recipes, but also take the time to reach out for help if you’re down. We at Alert1 want your golden years to be happy ones!