I LOVE to eat! Maybe it’s because I am Italian and German, I don’t know! LOL And because I love to eat, I have to be extremely conscious about the types of foods that I am eating. For me as well as my clients, too much sugar or alcohol will put my body in a tizzy. If I overindulge or eat the wrong foods for my body, I gain weight, feel sluggish, unmotivated and downright grumpy! Sound familiar?
We know the key to having a healthy body is a healthy diet, but not everyone realizes that your diet can also affect your mental health. Studies have shown that individuals who incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet report higher levels of wellbeing (source). Must be all those amazing nutrients!
Certain foods and diets are known to help improve mental health and can actually reduce depression symptoms. Because I understand how difficult it is to keep yourself healthy mentally and physically, I created this food guide to help you improve your depression, anxiety, overall well being and quality of life.
1. Reduce sugar intake
Despite how hard it may be to control your sweet tooth, reducing sugar intake is essential to a happy body and state of mind. One study shows that men who ate 67 grams or more a day of sugar were 23% more likely to develop depression or anxiety in contrast to men who consumed less than 40 grams (source). To put that into perspective, two cans of coke have 78 grams of sugar!
If you’re craving sweets, remember there are alternatives to satisfying your sweet tooth. You can always enjoy a cup of organic strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries with a small drizzle of honey on top. Or, even better, a small piece of dark chocolate! Healthy foods can be sweet too! Another way to combat sugar cravings is to choose either fat or protein for a little snack. You could even combine fat and protein such as a little avocado with a slice of turkey. In a matter of minutes, you will find that your sugar cravings have evaporated into thin air!
2. Load up on omega-3 fatty acids
To have your brain function properly, your brain needs omega-3 fatty acids (source). Without these fatty acids, your brain may not work at the same cognitive levels, and will in turn affect behavioral functions. To supply your body and brain with the necessary omegas, try adding in some wild-caught, Alaskan salmon. You can also get healthy fats from nut oils, algae, or by taking krill or fish oil supplements.
3. Get your B12
Vitamin B12 and folate are linked to good moods as well as preventing and treating depression (source). There are many tasty foods to incorporate into your diet that are high in B12 without taking vitamins. Lentils, beetroot, spinach, chicken, and fish are all excellent sources of B12. Also, if you need a snack during the day, instead of reaching for sugary, processed food, try almonds instead! Almonds are a great source of B12. We like to soak our almonds overnight and then dehydrate them. Not only do they taste better that way, but their natural oils aren’t destroyed and you will digest them better too.
4. Steady selenium levels
According to research, selenium levels, that are too high or too low, can be linked to depression (source). Selenium is a mineral that can provide antioxidant powers, reduce cancer risks, aid in thyroid health, and also help mental decline (source). To get selenium in your diet, you can eat cod, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and organic poultry. In my practice, I’ve noticed that many people with thyroid disorders are also deficient in selenium. So if you have issues with your thyroid, be sure to have your doctor also check your selenium levels.
5. The mineral, Zinc
Zinc is a mineral that is often overlooked. Often times I see that vegetarians might not be getting sufficient levels of zinc. Zinc can help regulate the body’s stress response, which in turn can help reduce anxiety and depression (source). Curiously, the body’s highest levels are zinc is stored in the brain. To aid your mental health through zinc, try eating shellfish, like oysters or Alaskan crab. They are a healthy, low-carb food option! You can also try eating pine nuts (great on salad), eggs, quinoa, potatoes, and chickpeas.
6. Have a healthy gut
There is more and more information about the link to gut bacteria and health and the role it plays on depression (source). Think about when you get nervous and feel “butterflies” in your stomach! There is a strong connection between your moods and your gut. Ways to improve your gut health include, getting enough sleep, reducing sugar, and checking for food intolerances. You can also try eating fermented foods, like kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and tempeh. You can also take a daily probiotic to aid gut health! Read my blog to understand more about leaky gut here.
7. Taking care of yourself
When you take the time to nourish yourself, you will start to feel better! Putting in the extra effort to take care of yourself can make you feel good that you are improving your mental health naturally. Feeding yourself healthy foods and making meals is a form of self-care. You deserve to fuel your body with a healthy diet and pamper your mind and body! If you continue this trend of self-care and a healthy diet, I am sure you will soon see improvements in your life, body, and mind.