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The food we eat is associated with our mood, behavior, and cognition. Specifically, though, it is the building blocks, the micronutrients inside of these foods that I want to speak of and how they are essential for our mental health and wellbeing.
#1 Stable Blood Sugar
Have you ever felt hangry before? That vicious combination of hungry and angry? That occurs when you have low blood sugar. You feel anxious and easily aggravated. Your brain requires balanced blood sugar levels in order to function. That said, you don’t want to be riding a blood sugar roller coaster either, high or low blood sugar means stress for your brain. To keep a steady blood sugar, you want to reach for complex carbohydrates, sugars that break down slowly like oats, wild rice, and whole wheat products. Its best to also include lean proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds and legumes into your meals as they will help balance your blood sugar levels.
#2 Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The importance of omega-3 fatty acids for mental health is well recognized. Research studies conclude that taking a fish oil supplement improves depressive symptoms and is preventative for schizophrenia. Our brain is largely made up of fat and our body needs a diet rich in Omega 3’s so we can reduce inflammation and produce neurotransmitters to maintain healthy brain function throughout our life. These fatty acids are also found in foods such as Salmon, Herring, Sardines, Seaweeds, Walnuts and Flaxseeds. I commonly suggest two tablespoons of ground flax seeds per day for my clients.
#3 B Vitamins
B Vitamins are linked to neurological development, metabolism, mental function and energy levels. There are 8 B Vitamins in total and they are a micronutrient powerhouse that enhance performance of nearly every system in the body. They assist in the production of brain chemicals as well as hormones to make us stress resilient and feel at ease. B Vitamins are found in green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, meats, fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.
#4 Vitamin D
Vitamin D's effect on mental health extends far beyond depression. It’s the sunshine vitamin that stimulates the release of important brain chemicals so make sure you get enough sunlight exposure in the day.
#5 What is your Sanctuary?
This is the micronutrient of lifestyle! I ask all my clients this question. You might call it something different. Me Time? My Refuge? My Space? My Zone? Doesn't matter what you name it, it has to ring true for you. Preferrably you should (and you'd want to) do this once a day, or at least once a week. It could be a place or an activity, do it alone or with share it with someone. Something that rejuvenates, regenerates and nourishes you. Where you don't have to answer to nobody, check your phone or feel responsible for anything. This is your time to shut off and BE in the MOMENT. For myself, it is going for a Sauna, or walking in the woods (preferrably with my dog), or jumping into a body of water. What is it for you?