Can food help with mental health? An intriguing question.
Years ago, when I was first diagnosed the last thing I wanted was a lecture about the benefits of fruit, veg and a healthy life style. “GIVE ME THE F**KING DRUUUUUUUUUUGS!”
I dismissed the idea as nonsense. These days while I wouldn’t swap my Sertaline medication for a basket of greens, I have come to appreciate the role they play in well being.
Some of this stuff is basic, so bear with me.
The bad stuff
Coffee – I’ve cut down significantly over the last six months. I used it as a ‘pick me up’ in the mornings, but it also caused my adrenaline and cortisol levels to spike which isn’t good. Caffeine is like fuel to anxiety. These days I have maybe three coups a week (that’s a week not day)! Because let’s be honest, sometimes you really need a cup, and that’s alright. But as a whole try and stay clear. Cutting down isn’t easy, so brace yourself. On the first day I was so tired I expected my head to hit the desk.. it’s pretty miserable. But you get there. Try and focus on the end goal rather than how bad you feel in the present.
Sugar – Again I’ve cut down on sugar quite a bit. I mean, let’s not go mad I’m still partial to a Malteaser bunny, but I only have a few a week now (unless I’m menstruating and then all bets are off). Sugar tastes amazing but is the devil. Not only does it have zero nutritional value, it also destroys cells and increases cortisol levels.
Alcohol – My ultimate Achilles heel. I LOVE a glass of wine after work. However, I’ve learned to accept that it depletes the Serotonin levels in the brain. Particularly the day after a heavy drinking session I would feel on edge and even more anxious. It also made me feel sluggish and lethargic. So I now make sure that I have two completely booze free days a week. The other nights I keep it to one glass. (Although if I’m going out then forget it, I’m all over that shit)!
The good stuff
Salmon – A natural source of Omega three oil which has been proven to increase Serotonin production. I try and eat fish three times a week.
Spinach – These tiny leaves are packed with magnesium, which helps regulate cortisol levels in the body.
Blueberries – The ultimate super food. Filled with antioxidants and Vitamin C, which helps with cell repair. Basically they help to combat any toxins in the body.
Almonds – They contain zinc which is a key nutrient for maintaining a balanced mood. Zinc also keeps your immune system strong. Not exactly the tastiest nut out there, at first they felt like cardboard in my mouth.However, just a handful a day can do wonders and they really fill you up too!
Chia seeds – Great for energy (which is good if you’re cutting down on coffee).
Water – We need it. Flushes out all the crap in the body and feeds the cells.
I tend to make a smoothie each morning with blueberries, spinach, an apple (for sweetness), goji berries and chia seeds. That way you can bang everything you need in the nutribullet and off you go. One drink and you’ve had all the goodness that you need for the day. (No I’m not endorsing nutribullet, I got mine for Christmas after years of investing in crap juicers).
I’m not super strict with what I eat and drink, some weeks are better than others. Moderation, as boring as that sounds is the general plan I stick to. I recently quit Instagram because I was fed up of seeing people posting photos of their super healthy vegan lunches, green juices and gym sessions. I HAVE ENOUGH TO OBSESS ABOUT and don’t need to feel guilty because my dinner isn’t 100% non-processed.
However by including all of these foods into my diet and cutting back on the bad stuff, I have noticed an improvement in both my moods and energy levels. No bullshit, I wouldn’t lie to you.
Don’t expect it to happen instantly, in fact you’ll probably feel worse in thefirst days that follow. Your body will be craving all of the old food sources. However, after about five days you should notice a difference. There’s no need to go mad and do it all at once either. Even if you just incorporate one or two of the above into your diet that’s a positive change.
Have a great weekend everyone!