“You are what you eat!” In anticipation of Mental Health Week (May 7-13) the following nutrition tips will underscore the need for nutrients through better diet and supplementation to feed the body and the brain. Improved nutrition coupled with stress reduction are a healthy pair to help combat the detrimental effects of a busy, hurried lifestyle that many people lead. Let’s make time to examine the food in our pantries and the nutrients in the food we consume to advance both mental and physical health.
1. Balance your glucose (blood sugar) – it’s fuel for the brain
- Eat whole grain breads, rice or pasta (complex carbohydrates) instead of white bread, white rice or pasta.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Tea, coffee, sugary foods, sugary drinks and cigarettes can hinder your balance of glucose
- Too many carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables or bread, rice, etc.) on their own without protein or some kind of fat can cause imbalance.
2. Essential fats – these nourish your brain; the brain is made up of 60% fat
- Eat fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring or mackerel a couple of times a week
- Have seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and nuts such as raw walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts, and cold pressed oils from these nuts or seeds
- Stay away as much as possible from processed or fried foods (such as ready-made meals, chips)
3. Phospholipids– helps memory and boosts the brain.
- Eat fish (especially sardines) at least once per week
- Eat at least three eggs per week
- Include lecithin (on your cereal or in yogurt) to help memory. Also available in capsule form
4. Amino acids – these are the brain’s messengers, building blocks of protein.
- Include protein foods such as meat, yogurt, low fat cheese, fish, eggs, and tempeh (fermented soy) which contain amino acids at least twice per day
- Beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds, nuts, whole grains are vegetable sources of proteins that contain amino acids and should also be included in meals each day
5. Smart nutrients – vitamins and minerals can “fine tune” your mind.
- Five to seven servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruit are necessary each day; Include one portion of a dark green vegetable each day (A serving is ½ cup.)
- Take a multi vitamin/mineral supplement each day
- Reduce alcohol, and white bread, rice or pasta
The Brain-Gut Connection
Thinking is done by neurons in the brain, however, the digestive system contains 100 million neurons and produces as many neurotransmitters as the brain. For example, the gut produces two-thirds of the body’s serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter. So when you eat, you are in essence feeding two brains. The gut and brain are in permanent communication. Feeding your body the right foods can make you happy and the wrong foods can make you feel anxious ors depressed.
Resources: Optimum Nutrition for The Mind, Patrick Holford,
ABC’s of Natural Nutrition, A. Hoffer, MD, PhD
© Rosalie Moscoe, RHN, RNCP, Health In Harmony, www.healthinharmony.com