Health can get so complicated, especially when it comes to mental health. I’m a big fan of keeping things as simple as possible. So I’m going to share 6 super easy tips that will support your mental health using nutrition.
When we get a little down or a bit anxious, it’s easy to skip a meal, especially when these symptoms mess with your appetite.
Unfortunately, irregular eating can exacerbate the mood and make you feel even worse.
Not eating can also mean your blood sugar levels get a bit low, which can leave you lethargic and shaky. On a cellular level, it can impact your adrenal function. It increases production of stress hormones in an attempt to boost your blood sugar back up, making you feel more stressed in the process.
So try to have something small at the very least. A handful of nuts, a slice of cheese or a piece of fruit are all better options than missing a meal completely.
Eat the rainbow
Pretty common advice, but let me tell you the reasons why! Getting a variety of fruit and veg is awesome on a number of levels.
First up, it will give you lots of fibre. This feeds the happy bacteria in your gut who help you to produce serotonin, a happy neurotransmitter.
It will also provide you with heaps of antioxidants to protect your tissues from the nasties we’re exposed to daily – from viruses and bacteria to pollution and stress.
Finally, it will provide super nutrients such as selenium and magnesium. These have been linked to a reduction in anxious and depressive symptoms.
Looking for a mood superfood? Look no further than your fatty fishes! These are packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in your nervous system.
The problem is, a lot of us are deficient in them, or our balance between our omega-3s and omega-6s is way out of balance because of the amount of vegetable oil we consume. Omega-3s have been shown to help with both anxiety and depression, as well as reducing inflammation in the body.
Vego or vegan? You need to be pretty vigilant with your omega-3s. The body struggles to convert plant omega-3 precursors, especially if you have any other medical conditions going on. A practitioner-grade supplement may be your best option. So consider consulting your nutritionist to find the best one for you.
Be friends with fat
Low-fat food is so 90s! Good fats are where it’s at. Fat doesn’t just help balance out your blood sugar and give you a steadier mood and energy supply.
It can also provide you with nutrients like omega-3s, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E. These nutrients have super powers like protecting your body from oxidative stress and inflammation, balancing your immune system and supporting your thyroid function. All of these can be linked with mental conditions such an anxiety and depression.
Which fats to eat? When in doubt, stick to the ones you find naturally in foods, especially those found in the Mediterranean style diet. Olive oil, fatty fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds are all fantastic foods to start with.
Tamper down inflammation
Inflammation – acutely, he’s not a bad guy, but chronically, he’s the root of many conditions. More and more research is emerging to link inflammation with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
So how do we fix this with food? Simple!
Boost up those good fats and oily fish to down-regulate inflammation.
Remove any foods you might know you are intolerant or allergic to – common culprits are gluten, dairy and nightshades such as eggplant and tomato. This will lower the overall inflammation in your body.
Get a variety of high antioxidant foods to negate the negative effects of inflammation on your body tissues. You can go fancy with ‘superfoods’ such as cacao and maca and mesquite. Or, you can go simple and affordable with in-season fresh fruit and veg.
And remember that diet is only one piece of the equation. Chronic stress, medications and environmental exposures all contribute to inflammation as well.
See a practitioner
Sometimes there is more going on beneath the surface than what you can see. This is where a trained health practitioner can be helpful.
Whether you see a nutritionist, psychologist, counsellor, or whatever modality you prefer, ensure that they are willing to work with your GP to maximise your outcomes. By combining natural therapies with conventional therapies, you can find your sweet spot and build yourself back up to health and happiness.
What health tips have helped you with your mental health? Share below!