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5 supplements that can help you build a better mindset

Hand holding various pills

Tips & tricks / by Maia Tilbury

We all know that a balanced diet is good for our physical and mental health, but maintaining one can be a particularly difficult task. Maia Tilbury looks at five of the most beneficial supplements we can take to help us keep a healthy mindset.

With society’s views on mental health gradually changing for the better, we are now starting to view our mental health as something that's just as important as our physical health. There's also been a lot of progress made in terms of how both physical and mental health interlink, and how looking after each aspect separately is imperative in achieving a more balanced wellbeing.

Micronutrients, AKA vitamins and minerals, are key for the healthy functioning of our body and mind. Typically, these can be found naturally occurring inside of us already and if not, we can source these through nutritional foods.

Unfortunately though, most of us are likely to be in a nutrient deficiency, meaning that our body isn’t receiving enough or a particular micronutrient to truly reap the benefits it can bring. While it may be hard to detect whether this is the case (with the exception of regular blood tests), symptoms such as fatigue, getting ill easily, or achiness can be signs of a nutrient deficiency. Due to a weakened immune system, we can also feel unmotivated and lethargic, while symptoms of mental illnesses can become more severe – especially if we are already prone to them.

Trying to get enough micronutrients through our diet can be difficult, especially if we have a busy life. Thankfully though, there are plenty of supplements available that can keep the influx of micronutrients going and our mental wellbeing in check. Here are 5 to focus on.

1) Vitamin B

B vitamins are incredibly important for our energy levels, particularly B12 (cobalamin). They also help brain function, production of red blood cells and nerve tissue health.

Vitamin B complex is important to our mental health as B12 and folate supplements combined have been shown to increase production of serotonin (AKA the 'happy hormone') and dopamine, which are key hormones that regulate mood. Deficiency in B vitamins – specifically folate (B9) – has also been linked to depression. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B3 (niacin) is especially important as our brain uses this to convert glucose into energy. These B vitamins therefore also contribute towards healthy brain functioning and maintaining energy levels.

Symptoms of deficiency in this vitamin include fatigue, digestive problems and changes in appetite.

Foods high in vitamin B include meat, fish, dairy products, avocados, and potatoes. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B is approximately 400 mcg a day.

2) Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which can contribute towards the proper functioning of many different tissues and organs in the body, including the central nervous system (CNS). This immune-boosting vitamin also positively impacts the brain through maintaining homeostasis, which is a fancy way of saying 'helping to maintain proper function'. It therefore plays a key role in regulating our mood.

Vitamin C has been linked to a lot of factors involved in mood regulation. Firstly, studies have shown that Vitamin C helps reduce fatigue and tiredness, by helping energy levels and cognitive function, which is crucial in relation to managing mental health symptoms. Secondly, it has been shown to be a key player in serotonin production which, much like Vitamin B, can help ward off symptoms of depression and anxiety. Thirdly, it is thought to be involved in the suppression of cortisol, AKA the 'stress hormone', which itself is known to be associated with depression and anxiety. Fourthly, Vitamin C has been shown to help treat inflammation and aids in immunity from illnesses. I could keep going, but this would become a very long article if I did...

One of Vitamin C's biggest roles though is in the absorption of iron. Iron supports growth, development and energy processes as it carries oxygen to the brain and muscles. Iron deficiency has been associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The daily recommended intake of Vitamin C is between 500-1000mg which, thankfully, is quite easy to obtain as it's naturally found in a lot of foods (not just oranges!). Peppers, leafy vegetables and potatoes are all great sources of Vitamin C.


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3) Vitamin D

Vitamin D (cholecalciferol, to give its full name) is primarily a source for muscle, bone and joint health, as well as contributing towards healthy brain and heart function. Contrary to what we’ve been told about Vitamin D, we don’t actually absorb it from the sun directly, but our body is able to produce it when we’re exposed to sunlight. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays generate a chemical reaction that results in the formation of vitamin D3 – the active form of Vitamin D. In this form, Vitamin D then goes on to aid in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for bone and muscle growth and recovery.

Vitamin D, like many of the other micronutrients on this list, also has immune-system boosting properties, while a Vitamin D deficiency is common in those who also experience anxiety and depression.

Vitamin D can be sourced through oily fish, such as salmon, egg yolk, milk, red meat and various green vegetables like spinach. The recommended daily serving, via supplementation, is roughly 800 up to 4000 IU. However, exceeding this amount, or supplementing Vitamin D for a long period, is not recommended.

4) Omega-3

Yes, even that vitamin we all associated with oily fish is beneficial for our mental health!

Omega-3 can help massively towards healthy brain and heart function, and the fatty acids it contains (ALA, EPA, and DHA) have been found to help with symptoms of various mental health issues, including postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. Like Vitamin C, Omega-3 can also fight inflammation by reducing the production of markers involved in the process, as well as potentially improve memory in people with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

Meat, eggs and fish are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. The recommended daily amount is approximately 2000mg for both men and women.


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5) Ashwagandha

And finally onto one of the most beneficial supplements for mental health that I can personally attest to: ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is a traditional herbal medicine that is mainly associated with managing stress by helping to reduce levels of cortisol. It also possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which aid in a healthy immune system and help us fight off any infections or illnesses.

Perhaps its most powerful asset though is its ability to supports physical and mental recovery by enhancing the quality of sleep, which in turn can have beneficial effects on emotional balance and memory. This has definitely been the case for me – over time, ashwagandha has significantly improved my sleep and helped me feel more refreshed in the morning, benefiting my mood and energy levels throughout the day.

The specific ashwagandha extract you want to go for is KSM-66 as it can’t be found naturally through foods. The average recommended dose is around 1000mg daily.

Time to get supplementing!

Whilst this list of 5 supplements is definitely not intended as a series of treatments for any mental health issues we might have, research says that they can benefit our wellbeing quite significantly. It also tells us that maintaining a healthy mindset isn't just about challenging thought patterns and behaviours – keeping an eye on what we put into our bodies is vital too. So if you're struggling with your mental health right now, why not give these supplements a go?


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