Let me show you how to feed your brain

Do you want to think clearly?  Do you want to improve your mood?  Do you want to sleep better?   These are some of the challenges many of us face each day but for some, it could be a rollercoaster of a ride into depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.  I know what this is like.  My teenage daughter suffers from social anxiety.  She’s not a freak or a loony.  She is a smart and intelligent girl but the anxiety takes over and it stops her from doing normal activities.  It’s easy for me to say, ‘Eat better or eat these foods’ but for someone with anxiety and/or depression, this is like climbing Mount Everest – impossible!  All other factors need to be looked at such as loneliness and social support.  Nutrition isn’t going to ‘fix’ mental illness but it definitely helps to manage it and keep it under control.

Let’s start with the facts

One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year and it is estimated that almost half (45%) of Australians will experience a mental illness sometime during their lifetime.  The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder (Mental Health Foundation Australia 2017).

The onset of mental illness is typically around mid-to-late adolescence and Australian youth aged 18-24 years have the highest prevalence of mental illness than any other age group.  Adolescents and young adults are less likely than the population as a whole to either seek or receive treatment for a mental illness (Int Journal of Mental Health Systems 2008).

Being the Detective

What you eat each day plays a large part in how you cope with everyday life.  Eating the foods below will help but you need a qualified healthcare professional to give your diet a closer look.  For example, you may not be able to absorb your food sufficiently resulting in nutrient deficiencies.  These nutrient deficiencies may be affecting your brain chemical production.  You may have increased inflammation or your cells may not be functioning properly.  Your gut health may need improving.   You may have been experiencing stress for a long period of time which depletes some nutrients.  You may have an underlying biochemical imbalance or undiagnosed health condition.  The list goes on ……..  Qualified holistic healthcare professionals are there to take a full medical history and work out what’s going on.  It’s not a quick fix.  Sometimes, it can take a while to identify the issue but it’s better to get help rather than leave it until it’s uncontrollable.

Here are some of the whole foods and nutrients that can help:

Magnesium

Long term stress and anxiety can deplete us with this important mineral.  Magnesium helps muscles relax and promote a calm mind and relaxed body.

The best magnesium rich foods include almonds, nuts, seeds, bananas, green leafy veggies, wholegrains, avocado, dark chocolate. 

B vitamins

We need B vitamins for energy production and optimal brain function.  B vitamins are vital for the production of our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals).  Include wholegrains (brown rice, brown basmati rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, amaranth, millet), meat, nuts, seeds, green leafy veggies, bananas, legumes, lentils in your diet.

Essential Fatty Acids

For a healthy brain and nervous system, omega 3 fatty acids are essential.  Foods include oily fish such as mackerel and sardines, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocado.

Vitamin D

Although Australians live in a sunny part of the world, it is still possible to be deficient in Vitamin D.  Whether you live in a sunny country or in the northern hemisphere, it’s definitely worth getting your Vitamin D checked out.

Foods that contain Vitamin D are oily fish and eggs.

Protein

Without protein, we can’t produce our neurotransmitters which are essential for healthy nervous system function.   My general guide for protein intake is 1g per kg of body weight depending on whether you’re sedentary, active, very active etc.

Protein rich foods include meat, dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, tofu, tempeh.

 

 

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