Has anyone ever told you that you can improve your mood with the food you eat? Anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness, etc can all be impacted by the foods we eat. I was astonished when I learned about this subject. Here I am, working in corporate wellness trying to find ways to educate my co-workers on mental health issues and no one ever mentioned how our food is impacting our brain health and mood!
It all clicked in my brain when I thought about day-to-day life. What are we doing every day? We eat. All day, everyday. So, it makes perfect sense that things we are putting in our bodies could be impacting our mental health. Lets learn about the foods to improve our mood so we can start eliminated our anxiety, depression and more!
How does the brain connect to our food?
This was also eye opening. Our gut lining has a direct pathway to our brains and some experts actually consider the gut lining our “second brain”. This means anything that is bad for our gut lining or our microbiome is directly impacting how our brains are working on a daily basis.
The proof is in the pudding, check out this article by Dr. Uma Naidoo from Harvard Medical where she says, “you can reduce your anxiety by consuming omega 3’s”. Basically consuming more foods like fish (oily like salmon) and hempseeds can help with anxiety (which is a brain condition). If we think about how certain foods help our anxiety and depression and other foods make those conditions worse we can make little changes in our diet and experience great benefits. Read on to see what other foods can help our gut brain connection
How our bacteria and brain are connected
The bacteria that lives in our gut is so numerous and powerful to our health, and it often gets neglected. When it is all out of balance, we start to develop health issues stemming from a poor immune system, all the way up to our brains where we might have anxiety or depression. We really need to understand how our food can help us decrease these issues so we can stop harming our bodies by what we are eating each and everyday.
What food is good for our mood, anxiety, depression, etc?
Its always best to start with whole foods. One of my favorite quotes is, “if it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” – Michael Pollan. Our food should look the same from when it comes from the ground, a tree, or an animal. It shouldn’t come from a box or something with a food label. Just plain ole’ real food. Now, there are certain foods that can be extra good for our brains so let’s check out my list below. Start implementing or adding one new thing each week for small and sustainable changes.
Food to add into your diet for your mood (list from Dr. Uma Naidoo):
- Citrus fruit and red bell peppers (both rich in vitamin C, which in some studies has been shown to support your immune system)
- Spices: ginger, garlic, turmeric
- Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, clams, mussels, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks. You may recognize zinc as an ingredient is the cold remedy Zicam, as zinc has some virus-fighting effects.
- Magnesium-rich foods may help you to feel calmer, and help support immunity. Stress can deplete our magnesium levels too. Examples are legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.
- Fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids. A study on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir.
- Add some antioxidants to your anti-anxiety diet, which can support your immune system.
What foods should we avoid for our mental health/mood?
- Processed – As I mentioned above, things in boxes that are processed like breads, crackers, pasta, flour, etc are not good for our gut lining or our brains.
- Inflammatory oils – canola, sunflower, safflower, vegetable – REALLY bad for the brain, gut and overall inflammation in the body.
- Sugar – we all know to avoid sugar as it causes all sorts of health conditions like weight gain, diabetes, etc. It applies to every condition, including the brain and gut.
- Gluten – I have mentioned this in my other posts but gluten can tear the lining of your gut. It is best to avoid it if you are trying to improve your depression, anxiety, etc.
Check out these awesome resources below to take a deeper dive into how gut and brain connection and how you can eat certain foods to help with your anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness and more.
- This is your brain on food – Dr. Uma Naidoo
- The Mind-Gut Connection
- Grain Brain – Dr. David Perlmutter
- Brain Food – Dr. Lisa Mosconi
Other related posts:
- Baby food for brain health – great food options for your kid’s brain health as they develop
- Honey Chipotle Salmon – get your Omega 3s for brain health!
- Creamy leak and mushroom pasta – great for gut health! Has prebiotics from the leeks