When you suffer from anxiety and depression it can cloud every aspect of life. We know that when we don’t eat, we feel lightheaded, a bit nauseous, and weak, it impacts our decision making and our mood. We also know that when we eat too much, we become sluggish, sleepy, we have abdominal discomfort and are irritable.
Food impacts mood but rather than focusing on an individual food or nutrient, it’s better to focus on a healthy, diverse and well-balanced diet that will provide the nutrients required to keep your immune system, and gut microbiota in good shape to support your mental health.
Here are some basic nutrition hacks you can put in place to improve and support your health both mentally and physically.
1. Type of foods we eat
a. Eliminate processed foods and foods high in refined sugar – 60% of our calories come from processed foods. Processed foods are devoid of essential nutrients that naturally occur in whole foods and create “false” hunger causing us to eat more. They are also highly inflammatory. Inflammation is harmful to brain health. The quality of food matters to our physical and mental health.
b. Eat whole foods – 90% of Americans have at least one vitamin deficiency. Eating a variety of whole foods, mostly plants, provide us with a wide array of essential nutrients we need as building blocks or starter material for important functions in our immune system, digestion, mood regulation as well as other systems in our bodies. Plant foods are high in polyphenols which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties in the body.
c. Eating foods that help keep our gut healthy can support our mental health because 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulation of mood is produced in the digestive tract. Foods that are fermented like kefir, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut provide healthy probiotics, fruits, vegetables and whole grains put fiber in our diet and probiotics love fiber, it is their fuel source!
2. Timing of the foods we eat
a. Eat three meals a day with at least 4 ½ - 5 hours between them. This allows you to get hungry and your body to breakdown, absorb and process what has been eaten. When we eat at regular times it helps our body to regulate our blood sugar and insulin levels in a way that keeps us healthy.
3. Amount of food we eat.
a. Our bodies are designed to need only so many calories. Excess calories are stored as fat and create inflammation.
b. Large meals or binges can disrupt our metabolism by creating large swings in blood sugar and insulin creating havoc on our mood but also it wreaks havoc with feelings of shame, guilt, and fatigue which can aggravate depression and anxiety.
If you suffer from anxiety and depression the type, timing, and amount of food you eat impacts your mood aggravating your condition and not allowing you to feel your best. When we feel good physically and when we are mentally sharp, we can better address our health issues. Making diet and lifestyle changes can be an important part of maintaining your mental health and can be safely used in conjunction with the medical plan prescribed by your doctor.