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TikTok-famous dietitian shares the foods to eat to improve mental health

Aamulya/iStockBy GMA Team, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — The past nearly one year of the coronavirus pandemic has taught us that health is more important now than ever, and that how we take care of our bodies goes beyond just weight loss and superficial reasons.

Eating well not only helps with sleep, stress and energy, but the foods you add to your diet can also help improve your mental health, according to Samar Kullab, a Chicago-based registered dietitian who shares healthy eating advice on TikTok.

“It’s important to understand that the foods we’re eating can directly affect our brain health by altering the brain proteins and enzymes in order to increase neural transmitters, which is the connections between the brain cells,” Kullab told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “Some foods can raise serotonin levels through various enzymes which can improve our mood. They also can decrease inflammation, which is known to affect both cognition and mood.”

Here are five tips from Kullab on foods to add and foods to avoid to help give a boost to your mental health:

1. Add Vitamin D which helps with the production of serotonin, the key hormone that enables cells to communicate with each other and stabilizes mood, feelings and happiness, according to Kullab.

Find it in salmon, sardines, egg yolk, fortified foods (i.e. cows’ milk, soy milk and oatmeal), tuna and mushrooms.

2. Add magnesium, a mineral that is crucial to the body’s function, and is associated with anxiety and depression if it is deficient in the body, according to Kullab.

Find it in avocadoes, almonds, cashews, bananas, leafy greens, flax, chia and pumpkin seeds, legumes and fatty fish.

3. Add probiotics, which help increase good bacteria in the gut, also known as the “second mind,” according to Kullab.

Find them in yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso and tempeh.

4. Limit foods that cause inflammation like processed foods, fried foods, soda, pastries, white flour, refined cereals, pastries and candy, as there is a link between inflammation and anxiety and depression in the brain.

5. Make your meals balanced with a mix of complex carbohydrates (like whole grain breads, quinoa, beans, oatmeal and starchy vegetables), lean proteins (like chicken, fish, eggs, meat, soybeans and nuts), healthy fats (like avocadoes, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds and extra-virgin olive oil) and fruits and vegetables.

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