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Diet & Mental Health: An Unbreakable Bond

You know how after you dive into a satisfying donut with the “works” chocolate, marshmallows, all that good stuff, you immediately feel like a brick after? Well, yeah, I’m sure you expected it! What about our mental health? How our brains and minds function when we take in a little too much of what isn’t so good for us (But, you know, heck yeah get that donut here and there!). I’m talking every day, from skipping meals to skimping out on crucial nutrients, vitamins, protein etc. etc.

So, what to do, according to a nutritional psychiatrist, who explains that poor diet is the FOUNDATION of our mental health struggles: 1) STOP with the processed foods! Scientifically put: eliminating junk food from your diet can jump-start your journey to taming inflammation, oxidation, and insulin resistance.

Simply put: The blood sugar spikes that result can put you on a hormonal roller coaster, where your stress hormones are all over the map, taking your moods with them!

2) Animal Protein = Key Yes, we have all heard how meats, especially red meats, are detrimental to our health. This is not necessarily the case. Animal food, quote, “all the vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that your brain and body need”. Bam. Myth debunked! It contains a huge source of Vitamin D, the stuff that helps us feeling good and like ourselves in those grey winter months. This being said- make sure they are pasture raised, hormone-free meats, we don't want any sort of additives or toxins. P.S., If red meat isn’t your thing, poultry and seafood have awesome brain-boosting benefits as well. If you are plant-based or vegan, because of course, these options are not available to everyone, make sure you are getting enough fat! You just want it to occur naturally in the foods you eat, so stray a far from anything refined, added, or processed.

“A literature review indicates that depressed individuals may be more likely to be deficient in important dietary nutrients, including folate, vitamin B-12, selenium, zinc, and iron” (Scott & Happell, 2011).

“Diet quality also is a major concern, as serious mental illness patients consume high-fat and low-fibre diets compared to the general population” (Scott & Happell, 2011).

3) Flighty fleeting carbs - be gone! It's really important that we do our best to not only eat carbs, but add in proteins and fats where possible, so throw some cheese, nuts yogurt, dairy-free yogurt, in with that fruit or toast to really feel satiated and nourish the brain with what it needs.

“A high-fat, low-carb diet can lower insulin levels, stabilize glucose levels, and allows the brain to burn more fat than glucose for energy”. Although this is not for everyone, it has been associated with mental clarity and brain function. If anything, there is a takeaway to take in more of those healthy fats! -Salmon -Olive Oil -Raw cheese, milk, and butter, again, steering clear the processed stuff where possible

I’m also going to go into super-nerd mode for a second and mention that there are serotonin receptors in the stomach lining- COOL HUH? We call it the second brain! That means you need to eat well to have proper release and reception of our big hormonal players. Ups and downs, highs and lows, really can be hugely improved by diet! So before you pound that coffee at 6:30am, have some real yogurt, ghee, or butter on sourdough (also great for the stomach! Anything fermented, really! ).

Small steps each day can help us feel, and think, our best. Hope this helps, from intuition to fruition, Lex

Hygge & Co. Psychotherapy & Wellness References:

Scott, D., & Happell, B. (2011). The high prevalence of poor physical health and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours in individuals with severe mental illness. Issues in mental health nursing, 32(9), 589-597.

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