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Tips for a healthy and balanced diet that helps your mental health

A balanced diet should be governed by three principles:
1. Meet the body's caloric or energy needs
Individual energy needs depend on body composition, age, sex and level of physical activity. It is the only factor on which we can influence to modify our energy expenditure.
2. You must have these necessary nutritional requirements:
  • Protein: 12-15%
  • Carbohydrates: 55-60%
  • Lipids: 30%
3. Eat foods from all groups
It is very important not to skip any meals and to distribute the energy and food ingested at each meal appropriately. The daily distribution should be:
  • 25% breakfast (upon waking up and mid-morning)
  • 35% on food
  • 15% on snack
  • 25% on dinner
Having a healthy and balanced diet will also have a great impact on mental health. Some foods provide essential nutrients for emotional well-being. Some of them are:

  • Essential amino acids:
Tryptophan (basic component of proteins). The brain uses it for the synthesis of serotonin. This helps induce sleep naturally (acts as an internal clock and determines sleep and wake cycles), reduces anxiety and tension and can have a slight antidepressant effect. Some foods rich in tryptophan are: fish, eggs, turkey, chicken, legumes, dairy products, rice, some fruits (kiwi, banana, pineapple, avocado), nuts, cereals.
  • Amino acid precursors of dopamine (phenylalanine and tyrosine): dopamine is a neurotransmitter related to the body's level of alertness, some cognitive functions (such as memory) and also with mood. Some foods rich in phenylalanine are: eggs, meat, milk and dairy products, oily fish, legumes, nuts, cocoa. Those that provide us with tyrosine are those that have high amounts of protein, such as meat (poultry, beef and pork), eggs, cheese and legumes.
  • Vitamins: all of group B influence the functioning of the brain and nervous system. The deficiency states of this group can cause irritability, mental confusion, lack of concentration and memory. In the most severe cases, even lethargy and depression. Some foods rich in B vitamins are: whole grains, legumes, eggs, fish, milk, beef and pork.
  • Minerals: involved in the synthesis of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. For example, iron deficiencies can affect the ability to concentrate, pay attention and remember, and decrease cognitive performance. Sometimes, apathy and lack of energy can be due to anemia due to lack of iron (iron deficiency anemia). Some foods rich in iron are: seafood, spinach, liver meat and other organs, legumes, red meat, quinoa, tofu.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Recent studies have found an inverse relationship between the levels of this type of lipid and mood. Some foods rich in Omega-3 are: olive oil, seeds, nuts, seafood, avocado, green leafy vegetables.
It is important to remember that a comprehensive approach to mental health requires a balanced diet.

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