My last article talked about Mental Health Awareness Month (happening right now!). Here is some information about how what we eat impacts our mental health — believe it or not, there is a very strong connection. We all know what we eat impacts our physical health, but recent research is showing that it impacts our mental health as well. Your brain responds strongly to what you eat. In fact, your gut contains an entire nervous system of its own on a constant feedback loop with the brain. Your gut health can affect how anxious or depressed you are, how you handle stress, and even how mentally sharp you feel in the afternoon. The following are steps to create a healthy belly and happier mind.
— Eat more plants! Follow a more traditional diet based on whole, real foods, and try to avoid processed ones.
— What is traditionally called a “Mediterranean Diet” — rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, low-fat dairy, and olive oil and lower in red meat, sugar, and fast and processed foods — demonstrates strong mood-boosting benefits.
— Variety is the spice of life! Eating a rainbow of veggies and fruits promotes a diverse culture of good belly bacteria.
— Eating a variety of foods also helps your brain get the nutrients it needs. Running low on B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals like iron and zinc can make you feel mentally (and physically) sluggish. It is best to get these nutrients through food rather than supplements — think salmon, baked beans, nuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
— Sauerkraut anyone? Eating fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha (fermented tea), kefir, and pickles are a natural way to add probiotics.
— Not to be confused with prebiotics — also needed for good gut health — eat things like leeks, onions, lentils, and chickpeas.
Maybe the old saying you are what you eat should be, you feel what you eat. Either way, we all want to feel at our mental and physical best and our food choices can help us get there. I’ve said this many times before, there is no such thing as perfect eating. Look at it as one big experiment. Try different things and see what works for you.
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