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Eat Like Your Mind Depends On It

Until fairly recently, the medical field didn't fully acknowledge the connection between our mental and physical health. Fortunately though, there is now a universally accepted understanding that the two are inextricably linked. There are of course varying ideas on how to treat our bodies for better mental heath, there are a handful of essentials that most experts agree on:
  • Regular Exercise of some sort–including something aerobic (walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, hiking)
  • Healthy Eating/Drinking Habits which includes getting lots of whole foods, needed nutrients, limiting sugar, salt, and processed foods, limiting caffeine and alcohol, staying hydrated, and maintaining an alkaline diet (see below for dietary suggestions)
  • Restful Sleep (check out these tips from the National Sleep Foundation)
  • Adequate Vitamin D (ideally in the form of sunshine), B12, Zinc, and Magnesium
  • Probiotics
  • Omega 3 Fatty acids
  • Spending time in nature (park, woods, anything)
  • Limiting screen time
  • Checking Blood Levels to identify any potential hormone imbalance, nutrient deficiency, food allergies, immune issues, sugar imbalances, or immune disorders as these can all have a huge impact on your mental and emotional health! Download The Mental Health Blood Test Recommendations to ensure you get all the necessary tests.

Eating for Mental Wellness

I've compiled some well-researched nutritional suggestions below from sources like Dr. Eva Selhub and Dr. Uma Naidoo of the Harvard Health blog. Of course, always check with a trusted health professional (and use your own experience as a guide) to determine the best nutritional approach for you.  

Eat a 'Clean', Balanced Diet. Studies have shown that compared to a typical "Western" diet (which tends to be high in processed and refined foods, sugars, salt, and dairy), “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean or Japanese diets (which tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish and seafood, with modest amounts of lean meats and dairy) there is a decreased risk of depression from between 25% to 35%. 
Green juice rules! I've found that a fresh green juice first thing in the morning does wonders for both my energy and mood-especially when I include celery which has greatly helped in reducing my anxiety. You can get a decent, affordable juicer on Amazon and there are any number of good possible combinations (cucumber, kale with a little apple or carrot for sweetness is one of my faves), and organic is always optimal. 

Take Probiotics ('good bacteria') Daily.  95% of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain) is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, the production of which is  highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria protect the lining of your intestines, provide a barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria, limit inflammation, improve the absorption of nutrients from your food, and activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain. 

Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods: A study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested a link between probiotic foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir, and a lowering of social anxiety symptoms.

Eat Foods High in Magnesium. Evidence suggest that foods naturally rich in magnesium may decrease anxiety. Examples include leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Get Your Omega 3's. Numerous studies have indicated a link between the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies, oysters, and sardines are all high in Omega 3's but as much fish now contain high levels of mercury, PCBs, dioxins and other environmental contaminants, you may want to consider vegan alternatives such as walnuts, brussel sprouts, hemp, chia or flax seeds, algal (algae) and penilla oil. And of course you can get your Omega 3's in low-mercury fish or vegan supplements as well.  

Eat Mood-Boosting Foods. Foods have the power to spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Some of the foods associated with decreased anxiety and improved mood are:  asparagus, avocados, blueberries, turkey, almonds, yogurt, and kale. 

Eat Antioxidant Foods. Anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lower total antioxidant state so it makes sense to add to your diet foods rich in antioxidants like:
  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
    • Spices like turmeric and ginger.

Stay hydrated. Our brains are made up of 70% water. When we don’t drink enough water, our circulation slows, which results in less oxygen getting to our brain (even a 5% drop in body fluids can decrease your energy levels by as much as 30%). The lack of hydration also triggers areas of the brain that create anxiety and nervousness and can negatively impact the chemical processes in our brain.