We all want to get through our days with grace and strength. Do a good job at work, be kind and gentle with our kids, keep up on our emails, respond to a friend in need, and the list goes on. Staying focused and strong mentally can be just as hard, or even harder, than staying strong physically. We're pulled in so many directions, taking in an unprecedented amount of information (Don't believe me? Read this.), and often trying to manage all of it on too-little sleep (What? You thought you were the only one? Not so. Check this out.). Thankfully, this is one of the many, many areas where good nutrition can help. There are a variety of nutrients that have been studied and shown to improve both mood and mental focus. Here are just a few to get you started: Vitamin D: Many of us don't get enough Vitamin D. A lot of our Vitamin D supply is absorbed from sunlight through our skin, and since we spend much more time indoors than our ancestors did, it can be hard to get enough of the stuff, especially in winter. The result is quite literally depressing. Insufficient amounts of Vitamin D have been linked to depression in both men and women. But Vitamin D isn't good for mood alone; it also helps maintain a healthy immune system and protects bones when paired with calcium. Luckily, it can be found a variety of foods, including:
  • Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna (including canned), and eel
  • Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Orgain Almond Milk
  • Fortified Cow's Milk
Omega-3's: You may already know that scientists have reams of research about the value of Omega 3's to heart health because they are integral to the creation of hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. But you may not realize that Omega-3's can play an important role in mental health, as well. Omega 3's are highly concentrated in our brains and appear to be important for memory and overall function so much so that scientist believe Omega 3's (also known as Omega 3 fatty acids) may be protective against Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. Yet unlike other fats we need, the human body cannot make Omega 3 fatty acids. The only way to get Omega 3's is through food. Some of the best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include:
  • Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, trout (including canned), tuna, and eel
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Edamame (soy beans)
  • Walnuts
Vitamin B12: B12 is an essential element in the creation of red blood cells and nerves. If you don't have enough B12, you might experience short-term fatigue and slowed reasoning, and some studies have linked insufficient levels of Vitamin B12 to increased brain shrinkage in the elderly. Yikes! While you probably don't need to add “avoid brain shrinkage” to your to-do list, you might want to consider getting enough Vitamin B12 to help stay sharp and mentally focused in your day-to-day activities. The good news is, Vitamin B12 is found in lots of delicious foods. The bad news is, most of these foods are animal-based. So, if you're a vegan, pay extra close attention to your B12 intake and consider fortified foods or supplements. Some great places to get your B12 include:
  • Shellfish
  • Fatty fish
  • Red meat
  • Milk, cheese, and other dairy products
  • Orgain Superfoods powder (which is vegan-friendly)
  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified soy products