Monday, January 17, 2011

Mental Health and Nutrition - Can Food Help Your Mood?

IT'S ASK ALICIA WEEK!

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Can Food Have an Impact on Mental Health?

Just like most other physical aspects of health and wellbeing, mental health is significanly effected by diet.

Balancing blood sugar is something that I talk to almost ever client about. This is because while most of us struggle to maintain balanced blood sugar due to a large amount of refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods, it is absolutely vital for health and wellness. Some of my articles have talked about the importance of balanced blood sugar for weight loss, hormone regulation and even headaches, but did you know its also a key component to mental health?

Balanced blood sugar will help regulate mood swings, ease anxiety and help to ward off depression.

So how do we work towards improving your mood?
  • Add more whole grains to your diet - experiment with quinoa, millet, wild rice and others
  • Reduce processed foods, especially breads, pastas, wraps, candy, crackers, desserts and pastries
  • When you do have these refined foods, pair carbohydrates with protein to slow the assimilation. Example: Hummus with your crackers, or nuts in a dessert
  • Eat small amounts frequently throughout the day, and ALWAYS have breakfast

Many of us are also severely deficient in B vitamins. B vitamins are particularly important in mental health, and studies have shown that people with depression and anxiety are more likely to be low in this nutrient.

B Vitamins are particularly important for new mothers as these vitamins help to ward off and regulate fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety and insomnia. B vitamins do a lot of other important work in the body as well, including regulating metabolism, digestion and elimination, and healthy skin and hair. While B vitamins are relatively easily absorbed through food, they are not well stored by the body, therefore they must be consumed daily.

B vitamins are found in the following foods:

  • Brewer's or nutritional yeast (can be added to food, or - think marmite, or vegemite)
  • Whole grains - the bran of cereal grains in particular
  • Leafy green vegetables, peas and some nuts
  • Liver meats

Many of my clients have seen a marked improvement in their mental health after switching to a whole foods based diet for just a few weeks. If you are lacking energy, managing depression, or could simply use boost, try adding these foods to your diet.

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