Top 9 Nutrient Dense Foods, Meals, & How Food Can Help Mental Health
By Carrie Walco-Bowman
According to the National Cancer Institute, nutrient dense foods are defined as a
“Food that is high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. Nutrient dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Examples of nutrient dense foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, seafood, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, and nuts.”
In honor of World Mental Health Day, we decided to curate an easy-to-use list of the top 9 nutrient dense foods that can help with mental health, including depression, anxiety, mood swings, and memory.
Here you’ll find examples of nutrient dense foods and find out how these superfoods can help with mental health.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Dark Leafy Vegetables
How it can help mental health: Brain Health
“Dark leafy vegetables (like kale, spinach, lettuce, etc.) contain high levels of vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein, and beta-carotene, which can help to protect the brain against inflammation and damage.”
One of our #MightyFam favorites, our Low Carb Breakfast, has baby spinach, scrambled egg whites and ground beef, packing in 50G of protein and healthy veg!
Nutrient-Dense Food: Oats
How it can help mental health: Mood Swings, Energy
“The prebiotic fiber found in whole grain oats, which regulates blood sugar, has also been linked to controlling mood swings and irritability. One article notes that people who consumed between 1.5 and 6 grams of fiber at breakfast reported having more stable moods and energy levels throughout the day.”
Our Mighty Bite healthy protein cookies (created exclusively for MightyMeals by Berg Bites) are gluten free, full of heart-healthy oats, contain 16G of protein, and only 1 gram of sugar.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Low-Fat Milk & Yogurt
How it can help mental health: Depression
“In a study of more than 1,000 adults from Japan, researchers found that those who consumed a higher amount of low-fat milk and yogurt were less likely to develop symptoms of depression, compared with those who consumed lower amounts of these dairy products.”
You’ll notice that many of our meals use Greek yogurt as a healthy, low-fat dairy ingredient in sauces or dressings, like in our Chicken Enchilada Casserole.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Salmon
How it can help mental health: Brain Function, Anxiety, Mood, Depression
“Salmon are well-known for being one of the most abundant sources of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are two kinds of brain-essential omega-3 fatty acids. The duo decreases inflammation and promotes healthy brain function, as well as regulates neurotransmitters – when you’re feeling tense or stressed, these acids help keep cortisol and adrenaline from spiking, thereby reducing anxiety. Salmon has high amounts of vitamin D, which has also been tied to lower rates of depression. Salmon is a wonderful source of vitamin B-12, which is supportive in the process of making brain chemicals that impact mood.
Another fan favorite, our Hoisin Glazed Salmon is packed full of healthy nutrients and
Nutrient-Dense Food: Lean Chicken
How it can help mental health: Memory, Mood, Depression
“Chicken, like turkey, is a delicious lean-protein choice containing the amino acid tryptophan. Though it’s often associated with post-Thanksgiving naps, this substance doesn’t actually knock you out as urban legends go, but it does help your body produce serotonin — which is vital in helping your brain manage your mood, fight depression and help maintain strong memory.”
Our gluten-free Chicken Milanese meal is a healthy alternative to fried chicken and comes with an arugula tomato parmesan salad, served with balsamic vinaigrette.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Eggs
How it can help mental health: Brain, Mental Health
“Several nutrients in eggs support brain health – choline, lutein, omega-3 fats, B-vitamins. Studies have shown a link between low levels of folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats in people with depression [source]. Eggs provide all these nutrients. “
Source: 5 Health Benefits of Eggs
The Carnitas Breakfast Bowl is topped with one sunny side up egg and features black beans, one of the most nutrient dense beans available.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Chickpeas (or Garbanzo Beans)
How it can help mental health: Mood, Brain, Nervous System
“They could boost your mental health. Chickpeas have choline, a nutrient that helps make important chemicals for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system activity.”
Source: Chickpeas, by WebMD
Chickpeas can be used in a variety of ways and dishes, like the spice rubbed beans we serve in our Vegan Mediterranean POWER Bowl, all made-to-order with a variety of summer vegetables.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Carrots
How it can help mental health: Memory, Brain Inflammation
“Carrots have high levels of a compound called luteolin, which could reduce age-related memory deficits and inflammation in the brain, according to a study published in 2010 in the journal Nutrition. In the study, mice whose daily diet was supplemented with 20 milligrams of luteolin had reduced inflammation in their brains. The researchers said the compound also restored the mice’s memory to the level of younger mice.”
For our Thai Chicken Salad, we roast the chicken to perfection in our special ovens and then lay it atop a fresh artisan salad blend that is bursting with a rainbow of color, including freshly shredded carrots.
Nutrient-Dense Food: Sesame Seeds
How it can help mental health: Brain Alertness, Memory
“Sesame seeds are a rich source of the amino acid tyrosine, which is used to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for keeping the brain alert and memory sharp. Sesame seeds also are rich in zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6, other nutrients involved in memory function.”
Sesame seeds are used in many of our freshly prepped meals, like our Beef Poke Bowl, which includes mangoes, another superfood known for helping to boost memory and fight depression.
For more advice about nutrient dense foods and how to use them in your healthy meal prepping and meal plans, contact one of our MightyFIT Nutrition Experts*.
*MightyFIT Nutrition Experts are highly qualified professionals in their fields and able to recommend foods and meals to help you discover what works best for your overall health. They are not doctors or qualified to diagnose or treat any medical conditions or mental health issues in any way.