FOOD AND MOOD
TThis post is inspired by my good friend Natalia, who works for the National Alliance on Mental Illness where she focuses on the super-important topic of minority mental health. This week, she wrote an awesome blog post for about how healthy eating affects mental health where she gave a little shout out to my blog.
It made me so happy that Natalia wrote this article for many reasons. She and I have talked many times about improving your life through not just food but by adopting a positive and mindful outlook. This idea is the number one reason I care about food and health. So many people go through dark times and feel like they have no idea how to get out. During these times, it’s can be hard to get out of bed, let alone take good care of ourselves. Despite this, I know countless stories, including my own, that reveal how nutrition and self-care can transform your mood. It’s not always easy, but one step at a time, changing the way you eat, the amount you move, and the way you treat yourself can change your entire life.
HOW FOOD AFFECTS MOOD
So how does this work? How can what I eat make me a happier person? Like anything with mental health, this answer is a bit complicated. There are many factors that cause mental health, meaning there are many factors involved in treating it. But food might have a bigger impact than you ever imagined. Here are some of the ways:
Many studies have shown that nutrient deficiencies can cause depression and other mental illnesses. Our body uses various nutrients for proper cell function and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters. When we’re nutrient deficient, these reactions get thrown out of whack and our mental health takes the toll. Most mental health meds affect neurotransmitters, so it’s worth checking where you might be nutrient deficient to see if you can balance things out more naturally. (Below I talk about some of the most important nutrients for a healthy brain). It’s also interesting to note that many neurotransmitters are actually created in the gut!!! So if you’re wondering how food might be related… there ya go.
Nutrients also repair damage caused by free radicals (pollution, stress, toxins etc). This includes damage to brain cells and when our cells are damaged, it’s harder for them to function properly. Antioxidants like Vitamin C (found in berries, oranges and many other fruits and veggies) reverse this damage so we can get to thinking more clearly.
Better food = better physical health. Achy joints, extra weight, acne are all physical symptoms that can be caused by bad food and can lead to bad mood. Weight in particular can be a trigger for depression because culturally there is a lot of stigma against being overweight. While weight should in no way dictate your happiness, many people find that being at a healthy weight is more comfortable and alleviates the stress of negative body image, risk of disease and more.
Healthy food gives you energy. One common symptom of depression is lack of energy, which can lead to being sedentary and eating processed food, which in turn makes you lack more energy. When you eat better, your body has the fuel to move which can help you get out of a funk and identify whether your energy levels are a symptom of the illness or your lifestyle.
Mental health is an important and sometimes serious issue. If you’ve been feeling really low for a while, it’s a good idea to meet with a doctor or therapist. Whether you need a little pick me up or need to get out of deep funk, give food a try!! Give your body and mind a chance to heal themselves. Trust that what’s going on in your head is not your fault, but that you are still powerful and capable of changing how you feel. Trust that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Improving your health is fun, and when your mood improves, it’ll feel so worth it!!
I’d love to know what you all think about this. If you’ve gone through something similar, or if you need more help- just let me know. Remember that you, as much as anyone else in the world, are deserving of your love and care. ♥
BEAT THE BLUES SMOOTHIE
- BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries are rich in antioxidants including Vitamin C which reduce cell damage and prevent depression.
- CHIA & FLAX SEEDS: These seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids which more and more studies are showing to have a deep link to brain health. Fats are necessary to brain cell structure, and when we lack healthy fats, other fats have to take over. ‘Bad’ fats like trans and saturate fats cause inflammation which keeps our brains from running smoothly. Chia seeds are also a good source of magnesium, which is one of the best nutrients for stress relief.
- BANANAS: Bananas are a good source of Vitamin C and B-6. Deficiencies of these vitamins have been linked to depression.
- PEANUT BUTTER: Nuts contain important amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and play a key role in proper brain function.
- CASHEW MILK: Cashew milk is rich in Vitamins B, E, and D all of which are necessary for brain function. Vitamin D deficiency is especially high in the winter when people get less sun, so it’s important to get it through a dietary source.
- COCONUT: The soothing scent and taste of coconut has been linked to better moods.