Here we are in Heart Health month…
For a healthy physical heart, a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and alternative protein sources and healthy fats, like olive oil is the way to go. If you have been diagnosed with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may need to make it more restrictive. Please consult your doctor or a registered dietitian for help in creating the right eating plan for you or visit the Dietitians of Canada website.
Did you know that food can have a powerful effect on your mental health? I’m referring to those of us who suffer from mild depression and/or anxiety. Serious mental illness requires the help of a mental health professional.
Before we talk about the changes to your diet that could have impact on your quality of life, first a crash course in brain chemistry…don’t worry it’ll be simple. There are 6 main chemicals in the brain that affect mood:
Glutamate encourages nervous activity and GABA inhibits it, so if you have anxiety you may have an imbalance of too much Glutamate vs GABA.
Norepinephrine is involved in the fight or flight mechanism and too much makes you sleepy and lethargic and too little makes you anxious.
Serotonin plays a part in your overall state of mind and too little serotonin is related to depression.
Dopamine is the pleasure chemical and Endorphins act as a pain killer.
As with your physical heart, a well-balanced diet is important. But there are some foods that can help with depression and anxiety:
Tryptophan Rich Foods
Importance: It’s an amino acid that helps your body produce serotonin.
Includes: Turkey, chicken, bananas, milk and cheese, oats, nuts and seeds.
Omega 3 Rich Foods
Importance: Acts as an anti-inflammatory in the brain, so other brain chemicals can develop properly.
Includes: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, flax seeds, flax and canola oil, dark green leafy vegetables and walnuts.
Protein Rich Foods
Importance: Stimulates the production of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.
Includes: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, meat, fish, poultry and meat alternatives. Combine with complex carbs for the best result.
Importance: Carbs increase the production of serotonin in the brain. By choosing complex carbs, you’ll avoid the sugar high and crash and you’ll feel satisfied longer.
Includes: Whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread and other minimally processed grains.
Foods Rich in B Vitamins
Importance: The B Vitamins (B6, B9 and B12) play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood.
Includes: Meat and meat alternatives, poultry, fish, dairy products.
If you are currently taking anti-depressants or anxiety medication, please don’t stop them without consulting your doctor. These foods may allow you to reduce your dosage over time.
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