Did you know each year approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness?
Most commonly experienced are anxiety, depression, bi-polar, mood disorders and eating disorders. Whether you experience any of these yourself or know someone who does I hope the following nourishing tips help to support good mental health, a positive mind-set and positively boost your mood.
The overall goal when nourishing your body for a healthy mind is to:
Boost your overall nutrient intake (by eating a nutrient rich diet).
Ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals from your diet.
Enjoy quality sources of protein, healthy fats and slow-release (gluten/grain free) carbohydrates.
Avoid or reduce processed foods and sugars.
Promote a healthy mind with these tips:
Fish, fish, oily fish!
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid which means your body cannot make it and must be obtained by your diet. Low levels of omega 3 or omega 3 deficiency is a known contributor to poor mental health, depression and anxiety.
Did you know your brain is made up of fat and over 70% of the protective coating around the small cells (neurons) that make up your nervous system (called the myelin sheath) are made up of fat?
Good fats are necessary to ensure a healthy nervous system as well as brain health. They are needed to build the brain’s neural connections as well as the receptor sites for neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the hormone responsible for boosting your mood).
Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids:
Oily fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
Nuts and seeds – especially walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds
Give me back that b-b-bounce with B-Vitamins
B vitamins are important for nervous system function and energy production. They help boost your energy levels and help to ease nervous tension, stress and anxiety. In fact, B-vitamins are known as the “anti-stress” nutrients.
B3, B6 and B9 vitamins also work together with the amino acid tryptophan to produce serotonin (feel good chemical).
Foods high in B-vitamins:
Nuts and seeds
Chicken, turkey, red meat, pork
Avoid refined grains and sugars as these can deplete B vitamin stores
Feelin’ good – Serotonin
Serotonin is the feel good chemical made in your body using the amino acid tryptophan. (Tryptophan must be supplied through your diet).
Low serotonin levels are linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue.
Tryptophan is also needed to produce melatonin and helps to ensure adequate quality sleep.
Foods rich in Tryptophan:
Turkey, chicken, beef
Nuts (especially cashews)
Pumpkin, peas, spinach
Smart carbohydrates such as sweet potato and quinoa also help to boost your serotonin levels
Nature’s chill pill – Magnesium
Magnesium plays an important role in biochemical reactions throughout your body and has been known to help with depression, anxiety, stress and mood disorders.
It also plays a role in nerve function and energy metabolism.
Typically, the foods you’ll find that are highest in magnesium are green leafy vegetables which are packed with chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is known as the “life blood” of a plant and has the ability to absorb the sun’s light and turn it into energy.
Foods rich in magnesium:
Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale)
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression and mood disorders.
Sources of vitamin D:
Sensible sun exposure
The balancing act – Keep your blood sugar levels balanced
Fluctuating blood sugar levels = fluctuating moods
Unbalanced blood sugar levels can contribute to mood disorders, anxiety and depression.
How to keep your blood sugar levels balanced:
Avoid foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and instead choose smart carbs such as sweet potato, quinoa and protein rich legumes.
Consume adequate amounts of protein (chicken, turkey, fish, red meat, eggs and seafood).
Ensure you get enough healthy fat in your diet (avocado, nuts, seeds,olive oil, oily fish).
Eating protein-rich foods and healthy fats will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels and curb sugar cravings.
Sudden peaks in the amount of glucose in your blood (typically after high sugar or refined carbohydrate foods) can result in irritability, fluctuating moods and anxiety. Likewise troughs in your blood sugars (typically from going too long in between meals or not enough protein, healthy fat or quality carbohydrates) can contribute to mood swings, anxiety and feeling uneasy.
Avoid ‘bad mood’ foods – Consider Food intolerances and Sensitivities
Food intolerances and sensitivities may be contribute to feelings of irritability, fatigue, emotional imbalance, mood swings, depression and your overall sense of wellbeing.
Identifying potential foods and avoiding these in your diet can greatly influence how you feel and think.
Common foods include wheat/gluten, dairy/lactose, soy and preservatives to name a few.
Avoid or reduce caffeine and sugars
Stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol can contribute to anxiety, depression and mood disorders. They also ‘strip’ your body of necessary nutrients including the vitamins and minerals essential to your mental health.
Free mood boosters!
Get enough sleep.
Enjoy fresh air daily.
Be present. Be in the moment.
Don’t rush or be ahead of yourself. Allow your body to work with you not always catching up with your mind.
A well nourished body = a healthy mind
Written by Guest, Casey-Lee Lyons. Casey is a qualified Nutritionist and Naturopath, whole foods recipe developer, health and nutrition representative and wellness writer. www.livelovenourish.com.au/