Nutrition and Mental Health: Can the food you eat make you happy and help you reduce the effects of stress?
Food and nutrition profoundly impact health and happiness, mitigate the harmful effects of stress and anxiety, and can either cause or reduce inflammation. Chronic systemic inflammation is being implicated in more health challenges and concerns as scientific research is revealing this critical link to many modern day diseases and illness. My focus is primarily using food and nutrition to improve mood and mental health, to be happy. Can you feed your brain for happiness and stress reduction? Yes, you can! Proper nutrition supports mental health.
The chart below outlines the various foods and nutrients known to support mental health.
HIGH QUALITY ANIMAL PROTEINS
Contain amino acids that directly affect levels of amino acids in blood and brain, which directly affects neurotransmitters levels that play role in mood.
- Grassfed beef: High in omega 3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamins E and C, glutathione, and beta-carotene. Source of vitamins B6, B12 and D, and mood important minerals zinc, iron and selenium.
- Poultry (pastured): Excellent source of amino acids, especially tryptophan and niacin as well as vitamin B6 and selenium. Pastured animals are higher in omega 3 fatty acids.
- Eggs (pastured): Higher omega 3 fatty acids than non-pastured eggs. Excellant source of selenium and iodine as well as vitamins A and D. Yolks are high in choline, an important component of lecithin which works with fat digestion.
- Seafood: Contains amino acids, omega 3, zinc, iodine, iron, calcium, selenium, vitamins B12, A and D, many of which are beneficial for mood disorders. Zinc is advised for anxiety and is found in oysters, mussels, clams, crab. Oily fish such as wild salmon and sardines as well as pacific halibut and cod, trout, and sablefish. Smaller fish are lower in mercury and PCBs.
Key for the nervous system, hormonal health, and many physiological.
- flaxseeds and flax oil, coconut milk, olive oil, butter or ghee, avocados, olive oil, seeds such as sunflower, sesame and pumpkin*, nuts such as Brazil, cashew and walnuts**
- *highest in protein, good source of tryptophan, zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and B vitamins
**nuts and seeds should be soaked overnight to neutralize naturally occurring enzyme inhibitors and aid in digestion and absorption
VEGETABLES & FRUITS
Contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc, B vitamins; and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, E, and K.
- Non-starchy fresh vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, avocados, bell peppers, bok choy, burdock, carrots, celery, cilantro, cruciferous vegetables, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, fennel, garlic, ginger, green beans, green leafy vegetables, salad greens, mushrooms, onions, parsley, radishes, sweet peas, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts
- Starchy Vegetables: beets, corn, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash
- Fresh Fruit: apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, lemons, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, watermelon
Rich in probiotic and more digestible yogurt and kefir
GLUTEN FREE GRAINS
Good source of fiber and B vitamins.
Sources: brown rice, wild rice, quinoa (high protein), millet, and amaranth.
Good source of protein and carb; high in fiber.
Sources: black beans, black eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, pinto, split pea.
Soak overnight and rinse before cooking; add kombu while cooking to improve digestibility;
OTHER BENEFICIAL FOODS
- Organ meats: nutrient dense and healing. Liver is excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B12, folic acid, other B vitamins, iron and protein.
- Fermented foods: contain enzymes and probiotics; help maintain a healthy balance of flora in the gut sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso
- Homemade bone and vegetable broths: rich in minerals, improve digestion, healing for digestive system, boost immunity
- Fresh herbs and spices: enhance flavor; medicinal benefits, e.g., improved digestion (mint and ginger), cancer preventive (turmeric and rosemary)
- Sprouted beans and seeds: nutrient dense, high in enzymes, e.g., alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, broccoli.
- Raw apple cider vinegar: variety of vitamins and minerals, promotes good digestion, stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Sea vegetables: rich in minerals including iodine, iron and magnesium.