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The Power of Leafy Green Vegetables in Supporting Mental Health

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we often focus on physical well-being, but it is equally important to address mental health. While there are various factors that contribute to mental well-being, diet plays a crucial role. Leafy green vegetables, known for their rich nutrient profile, have gained recognition for their remarkable benefits for both physical and mental health.




1. Nutrient-Rich Composition:

a. Vitamin C: Leafy greens like spinach and kale are abundant in vitamin C, which helps reduce stress levels, boosts mood, and supports the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.


b. Folate: Folate, also known as vitamin B9, plays a significant role in brain function and mental health. Leafy greens like spinach and Brussels sprouts are rich sources of folate, which helps in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and supports cognitive function.


c. Magnesium: Leafy greens such as Swiss chard and collard greens are excellent sources of magnesium, a mineral that plays a crucial role in managing stress, anxiety, and improving sleep quality.


d. Iron: Iron deficiency has been linked to cognitive impairments and mood disorders. Leafy greens like spinach and kale provide a plant-based source of iron that supports oxygen transport and proper brain function.


2. Antioxidant Properties:

Leafy green vegetables are abundant in antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative stress, which can lead to mental health issues. Antioxidants combat free radicals and inflammation, contributing to improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of depression and anxiety disorders.


a. Lutein: Leafy greens like spinach and kale contain lutein, a powerful antioxidant that accumulates in the brain and protects against age-related mental decline.


b. Vitamin E: Vegetables such as Swiss chard and broccoli are rich in vitamin E, which helps protect cells from oxidative damage and supports cognitive function.


3. Enhancing Mood and Reducing Depression:

Consuming leafy green vegetables has been associated with enhanced mood and a reduced risk of depression. The nutrients found in these greens play key roles in the production and regulation of neurotransmitters, which affect mood and mental well-being.


a. Serotonin: Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, contain tryptophan, an amino acid that serves as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and a sense of well-being.


b. B vitamins: Leafy greens provide an array of B vitamins, including folate, which have been linked to a decreased risk of depression and improved mental health.


4. Cognitive Function and Brain Health:

Leafy green vegetables contribute to improved cognitive function and brain health, promoting mental clarity, memory, and focus.


a. Nitrate-rich greens: Leafy greens such as arugula and spinach are rich in dietary nitrates. These compounds enhance blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function, attention, and mental performance.


b. Vitamin K: Leafy greens like kale and collard greens are excellent sources of vitamin K, which is essential for brain health and supports cognitive function.


Recommended Quantities:

Including a variety of leafy green vegetables in your daily diet is crucial for reaping their mental health benefits. The following are recommended quantities in the metric system:


- Spinach: Aim for at least 150 grams of spinach daily.

- Kale: Include around 100 grams of kale in your meals.

- Swiss Chard: Consume approximately 200 grams of Swiss chard per day.

- Broccoli: Incorporate around 150 grams of broccoli into your diet regularly.


Leafy green vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that provide a multitude of mental health benefits. By incorporating these nutrient-dense greens into your diet, you can support brain function, reduce the risk of mental health disorders, enhance mood, and promote overall mental well-being. Consume a variety of leafy greens and aim for the recommended quantities to fully harness their potential. Prioritise your mental health by embracing the power of leafy green vegetables today!


Seek Professional Help


While green leafy vegetables can provide some mental health benefits, it is important to remember that it is not a substitute for professional help. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concerns, it is vital to reach out to a qualified therapist or counsellor for personalised guidance and evidence-based therapies to address your specific needs.


Make an Appointment Today


If you're seeking support for anxiety, depression, or any mental health issues, I encourage you to take the first step towards healing. Life in Balance offers compassionate and effective counselling and nutritional therapies to help you regain control of your mental well-being. Contact us today on 1300 232 166 or book online to schedule an appointment and embark on your journey towards a happier and healthier life.







References:

1. Pribis, P., Bailey, R. N., Russell, A. A., & Kilsby, M. A. (2013). Nutritional correlates of perceived stress among undergraduate students in the United States. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 32(5), 321-330.


2. Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 11(9), 1007-1014.


3. Chuang, Y. F., An, Y., Bilgel, M., Wong, D. F., Troncoso, J. C., O'Brien, R. J., ... & Ferrucci, L. (2016). Midlife adiposity predicts earlier onset of Alzheimer's dementia, neuropathology and presymptomatic cerebral amyloid accumulation. Molecular Psychiatry, 21(7), 910-915.


4. Polito, A., Basit, A., & Coppola, A. (2020). Role of Nutrition on Cognitive Function: Vitamin B12, Folate, and Homocysteine. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 12, 255. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2020.00255.

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