Monday, 2 November 2015

The Mood and Food Connection

The foods you eat not only fuel your day and help rebuild your body; they also support and stabilize the many intricate systems of our more nuanced internal workings. Put another way, this means that what you eat – or don’t eat, has both direct and indirect effects on your mental well-being and overall mood.

Nutritional deficiencies are one of the basic contributing causes of depression and anxiety, and are simple to correct, yet often seem to be overlooked. Simply stated, if your body doesn’t have the right building blocks available, it won’t be able to produce the chemicals that keep your brain calm and happy.

Mood supporting neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are amino acid based hormones derived from dietary protein. If the diet is deficient in proteins, neurotransmitter deficiency will also likely occur.  Increasing dietary protein will help ensure adequate building blocks available for neurotransmitter production, however, be sure to buy only the best quality affordable, and choose as much variety as possible. Excellent sources are organic or locally raised meat - including organ meats and less popular cuts, fish, fermented organic soy (tempeh), nuts and seeds, and legumes.

Once the primary building blocks are available, supporting micronutrients, including basic vitamins and minerals, are essential for enabling the production and utilization of these moods supporting chemicals. One of the best sources of vitamins and minerals is vegetables, a food group that most people tend to consume significantly. Always include at least one serving per meal, and ideally aim for three or more servings for optimal health. To help increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial minerals, include healthy nourishing fats (avocado, nuts and seeds, and their oils and butter) and natural acidity (citrus juice or vinegar) in accompanying sauces, dips or dressings.

Once the essential building blocks are in place, supporting the right internal environment for healthy neurotransmitter function is also important. An important factor that often plays into balancing the internal environment is stabilizing blood sugar levels. Since all body functions are interrelated, an imbalance in one system (blood sugar and insulin response) will have a domino effect on the body, throwing one system after another out of balance.  To help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day, reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates, and increase your dietary fiber intake with unprocessed whole grains, legumes, and both raw and cooked vegetables.

The microbiome – our internal bacterial ecosystem - is also an extremely important aspect of wellness. Following the above mentioned nutritional recommendations will naturally help support healthier gut ecology, however adding fermented vegetables; kimchi, sauerkraut, or pickles, as well as kombucha and kefir to your diet, can be additionally beneficial.

Once you’ve taken care of these nutritional basics, consider avoiding alcohol, synthetic or processed food additives, and caffeine and other natural and synthetic stimulants, since these can all affect neurotransmitter balance and reduce their effectiveness, increasing both anxiety and depression symptoms.

The simplest way to follow these guidelines is to eat as much fresh and homemade food as you can. We live in a busy time, and many people often feel they don’t have time to cook or make healthy food choices. While it can be challenging when you are first changing your eating habits, a little bit of practice and perseverance will help you build more healthful eating customs. A nutritionist can help you find ways to ease your transition, and assist you in discovering new foods and cooking techniques to expand your healthy eating knowledge.

If you want to understand more about your anxiety or depression you can book a complementary no-obligation assessment with one of our experienced health coaches who can answer your questions. Call 613 230-0998, book online, or email today!

About the Author

Jessica is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for helping people live happier, healthier, more vibrant lives through nutrition and lifestyle coaching. 

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