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Six Ways Eating a Healthy Breakfast Can Improve Mental Health

written by Ainsley Smith - Jan 23, 2017

Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith
Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith

, a an outgoing and energetic content writer for @CPOHealth

Our mothers may have been onto something when they told us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

While it’s no secret that what you consume first thing in the morning can drastically affect your mood and productivity levels, and per recent studies, it can even affect your mental health.

According to Spanish researchers, there are a variety of foods that play an integral role in how you feel mentally. In fact, when these healthy foods are consumed, there’s a much lower chance of developing onset depression or other mental illnesses.

During this study, researchers followed 15,000 young adults over the span of nine years and found that those who ate more nuts, vegetables, fruits, and fish had a 30 per cent lower incidence of depression than those who frequently ate processed or sugary foods.

Unfortunately, many people only compare mental health to mental illnesses, when in reality, mental health affects every one of us. Mental health means feeling good about who you are, having balance in your life and in your thinking, and responding constructively to life’s ups and downs.

It’s important that everyone practices good mental health, as it will not only help protect you from mental illnesses, it can also help you get the most of out life.

One of the easiest and often overlooked ways to maintain your mental health is through the role of nutrition. Therefore, it’s crucial to consume a balanced diet filled with healthy nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, which will enhance your mental clarity, provide you with more balanced moods, and protect your mind from early mental decline or other illnesses.

RELATED: 7 Cookbooks for Getting Started with A Paleo Diet

The best place to begin implementing these healthy changes is first thing in the morning – just as our mothers once encouraged us to do.

Learn all the ways that eating better can help improve your mental health.

Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith
Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith

Improved Concentration

Breakfast is easily the most important meal of the day, which is why choosing the right foods to properly refuel your mind and body when you wake up can improve your focus and memory. The foods you eat first thing in the morning will fuel your brain, which can improve your short-term memory and provide your body with the energy it needs to focus. It’s important to remember from eating an overly heavy breakfast as it can leave you feeling sluggish rather than alert and sharp. This means that you’ll perform better in the classroom or the boardroom, so make sure to eat a mixture of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats for breakfast every day.

More Balanced Moods

A healthy breakfast can also lead to a better mood. Following a restful sleep, a nutrient-rich breakfast will send glucose to your brain, which will leave you feeling much happier and less cranky first thing in the morning. By starting your day on a positive and happy note, you’ll feel ready to conquer the day and any obstacle that comes your way.

Helps with Weight Control

Eating a healthy breakfast not only replenishes brain energy, but it also helps kick start your metabolism, significantly reduces hunger throughout the day and even help you make smarter food choices during other meals. Because let’s face it if you had a nutritious and well-balanced meal for breakfast you most likely wouldn’t ruin your diet by eating fast food for lunch. For those who do skip breakfast, they are more likely to be starving by mid-day and in turn, they’ll eat more at lunch and throughout the day and give into junk food cravings.

Can Help Lower Stress

Realistically, we all endure a bit of stress first thing in the morning. From scrambling to get dressed and ready for work, racing to get the kids to school and rushing to make it to your morning meeting – mornings can be an extremely stressful time. These hectic and rushed behaviors can lead to an increase in stress hormones in the bloodstream, which can seriously affect your behavior throughout the day. By eating a proper breakfast filled with complex carbs, healthy fats and protein from whole food sources you’ll be better prepared to steer through the stressful periods without losing control.

Your Medication May Work Better

It’s also been discovered that eating more nutrient-rich foods may result in your antidepressant medication working better. A recent study conducted by the University of Melbourne found that supplementing your diet with certain nutrients found in healthy foods — omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and vitamin D — can be effective in boosting the positive effects of antidepressant medication.

Improves Brain Development

The old saying “you are what you eat” couldn’t be truer according to Roxanne Sukol, MD, a preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute. "When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body." This means that what we consume throughout the day plays an integral role in how our brain operates, which is why you should reconsider eating a fast food breakfast sandwich first thing in the morning.

So, What Should You Eat?

Remember, it’s not just about eating breakfast – it’s about eating a healthy breakfast. And with so many proven health benefits this needs to be a priority for each and every one of us. Here are favourite go-to breakfast options:

Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith
Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith

Slice of whole grain toast topped with avocado cherry tomatoes

A slice of whole grain toast can help stabilize blood sugar, which will help keep your mood in check. Avocado is a great addition to any meal as it’s bursting with depression-fighting folate, mood-lifting tryptophan and stress relieving vitamin B6. Tomatoes are filled with lycopene, which has been found to help individuals maintain optimal brain health for longer, enabling their bodies to stave off the impact of damage that’s caused by free radicals.

Oatmeal with diced fresh berries and sliced almonds

Fiber-rich carbs – like those found in oatmeal – can increase the feel-good chemical serotonin, which will lead to an increase in energy. Almonds are bursting with selenium, which is a mineral that has been found to help elevate moods. Berries can help protect blood vessels in the brain from inflammation, which can help keep you sharp.

Fortified whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and blueberries

A whole grain cereal that’s fortified with vitamin B can improve your mental health and fight depression. The vitamin D found in milk can also combat depression, while blueberries can help improve your mood.

Banana-almond-flax smoothie

Drink away your stress by enjoying a smoothie that can improve mental health. Nuts and flaxseed are great sources of omega-3s, which can help fight depression and anxiety.

Greek yogurt with honey and fresh berries

The protein found in Greek yogurt can increases levels of pleasure-boosting neurotransmitters, while the yogurt's probiotics can help fight depression. The honey may fight depression by reducing inflammation in the brain.

Veggie Omelet with a side of whole grain toast and fruit

Eggs are a great source of zinc, which can help you feel more alert and energized by regulating your metabolism and blood sugar levels.

Spinach, kale and pineapple smoothie

Spinach and kale are superfoods that are loaded with nutrients like brain-friendly folate. Folate can improve memory health and aid mental fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Pineapple is a great way to fight fatigue as it contains the mineral manganese, which not only prevents cell damage but is also vital to energy production.

Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith
Photo Credit: by Ainsley Smith



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