I take eating for my mental health seriously. I don’t prescribe to a specific diet or style of eating, but there are numerous studies out there showing that food IS mood. For those of us who fight a mood disorder of any kind, the way we eat can impact brain health.
Because our gut microbiome produces necessary neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, plus 90% of our mood neurotransmitter serotonin, what we digest in our gut matters. What we feed our gut impacts what our brain receives.
Not all things will be digested equally by all people. Every BODY is unique, just like every brain is unique. But generally speaking, the foods I list here can be a wonderful addition to any body and brain!
Here are 5 of my favorite mood-boosters that I always try to add to my day:
- Add in brain-boosting fat. Fat has been given a bad rap for the last 50 plus years, and I personally believe the push for low fat diets in recent years has negatively affected mental health. Olive oil is a healthy fat staple that boasts of anti-inflammatory properties and enriches vitamin absorption when paired with veggies – raw on a salad or roasted in the oven. Grass fed butter and ghee are also excellent ways to boost butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that impacts our mental health in wonderful ways! And don’t forget the fatty goodness of avocados, coconut oil and real coconut milk!
- Get those green things in your belly! By green things, I’m talking about leafy greens that provide significant sources of natural folate, which some of us with mental health concerns struggle to absorb. Think spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard – these can all be blended or cooked into any dish or added to a salad. Don’t forget to add your fat for extra absorption!
- Feed your gut bacteria fiber! And no, I’m not talking about your grandma’s Metamucil. Veggies are an excellent source of prebiotic fiber that can help work as miracle grow for the good gut bacteria you need for optimal mental health. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are detoxifying as well as nourishing for your gut garden. Beans, lentils, and chia seeds are also excellent sources of fiber if you can tolerate them.
- Love your yolks! I consider egg yolks to be nature’s multivitamin, but unfortunately, like healthy fat, they have been a casualty of the low fat/low cholesterol movement. Truth is, they contain a huge amount of choline, which is helpful in preventing cognitive decline, along with so many other nutrients that will supercharge your mental health like B12 and vitamins A, D, K and E. They contain omega 3 fatty acids, which improve mood health, as well as tryptophan – which is a precursor to serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter.
- Embrace the dark side – of chocolate, that is! Cacao is a powerful antioxidant and improves blood flow to the brain. When you have improved blood flow, you have better focus and better mood health. The flavanols of cocoa can increase serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter. Stick to the kind that is over 80% cocoa for the most mood-enhancing benefits and be sure it’s not loaded with a whole lot of extra ingredients.
Please remember that you aren’t what you eat; you are what you can digest. Chronic stress can be more toxic to our gut health and brain health than anything else, so while eating for mood health is important, easing your food stress is also important. A body in stress will not digest. Think about what you can ADD to nourish your body, not what you are stripping away. Keep it simple, focus on adding in these five things, and take a deep breath – you got this. Your body is on your side, even when it doesn’t feel like it.