According to a recent health survey, one in four New Hampshire residents said they used prescription medication for their mental or emotional health in the previous month, and one in eight admitted they needed medication or therapy during that time but didn’t get it. These figures are slightly higher than the national average and at least partly reflect life during the two-plus years of the pandemic.
Fortunately, it is becoming more and more popular to talk about mental health and find ways to treat and solve emotional and psychological problems that are common among people of all ages and walks of life. Professionals advise taking deep breaths, meditating or stretching. Therapy can be a great option for some people, and good sleep and exercise have been linked to reduced anxiety. One way to manage stress and improve your mental health is to simply make a little change in what you do every day: eating. An overall healthy diet is one way to improve mental health.
Healthy eating can be a difficult goal. We are bombarded with new trends and pseudo-scientific advice that is constantly changing and contradicting each other, and healthy cooking can be overwhelming for some people. However, in the study of nutrition, the science is clear and consistent on many key points.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines published by the Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services recommend eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, and eating at least two servings of seafood per week, especially for pregnant women and people with heart disease. terms. The fats, nutrients and omega-3 proteins found in seafood reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by an average of 36 percent, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and are ideal for athletes to fight soreness, reduce inflammation and increase lung capacity.
These benefits extend to mental health. Our brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory. A meta-analysis of fish consumption found that people who regularly eat fish are 20 percent less likely than their peers to experience depression. Over the past 20 years, dozens of studies evaluating more than 20,000 cases of depression have similarly shown that eating 2-3 servings of fish per week significantly reduces the risk of major depression. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association endorses the consumption of fatty acids in fish as an effective part of treating depression.
The most recent Dietary Guidelines also report strong evidence that seafood consumption during pregnancy improves many measures of children’s brain development, and these benefits tend to be greater the greater the consumption.
While shopping habits and diets are typically personal decisions, we can do more to educate people about the health benefits of seafood so they can make more informed choices at restaurants and grocery stores. There is now a coalition of over 200 industry and non-profit leaders in the seafood community who are asking Congress to fund a national seafood promotion program that promotes seafood as a nutritional part of a balanced diet.
Mental health is a complex issue that often requires a holistic approach. This can include professional help and medication, as well as simpler everyday changes we can make to lead a healthier and more mindful life.
It is important to value both physical and mental well-being. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can sometimes seem overwhelming or burdensome, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Eating a generally healthy diet with plenty of seafood is an easy and delicious way to transition to a healthier lifestyle—both your body and mind will thank you. We look forward to New Hampshire’s Congressional Representatives joining us to help improve the welfare of our state by supporting our campaign to promote seafood consumption.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, experiencing emotional difficulties, or worries about your mental health, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for yourself, a friend, or family member.
Sarah Bear-Sinnott of Exeter is President of Oldways.