Nutrition and Emotional Well Being

November 10, 2020

Let’s be honest – 2020 has been a tough year. No matter how you slice it, this year has presented a whole host of challenges unlike any other I can remember.  When faced with so much uncertainty and upheaval, it’s only natural that many of us will struggle at some point – whether that be mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or a combination of any of these.  Almost daily,  I talk to someone who is struggling or trying to deal with inner battles on top of (or often, because of) the world we live in today. And now, as the days shorten and the coldness of winter approaches, I’m reminded of just how important it is to do what we can to help our bodies from the inside out.  Nutrition truly plays such a vital role in our overall wellbeing and can be extremely helpful in combatting anxiety, fatigue, and malaise.  With that in mind, I’m highlighting a few key foods and nutrients that I would encourage everyone to try incorporating into their meals over the next few weeks, especially if you are one of the many suffering from any degree of mental distress.

Studies have shown that incorporating high intakes of the following foods is associated with decreased risk of depression:

  • Fruits – in particular: berries (which are high in antioxidants)
  • Vegetables – in particular: leafy greens, lettuce, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts
  • Whole Grains
  • Seafood – in particular: oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, and other fish such as salmon and trout
  • Lean organ meats
  • Olive oil
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Fresh herbs – in particular: cilantro, basil, and parsley

The foods listed above are important to incorporate daily, as they are good sources of the following 12 essential nutrients identified for their antidepressant properties:

  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Long-chain omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Thiamine
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

For those of you who have heard of or followed the Mediterranean diet, you’ll recognize the foods and nutrients listed above as those often included in that diet.

Conversely, a daily diet that is low in fruits and vegetables and high in the following items has been associated with an increased risk for depression:

  • Red and/or processed meats
  • Refined grains
  • Sweets
  • Full-fat dairy products (including butter)
  • Potatoes

Limiting these foods can help to alleviate mental stress as well as stress to many vital organs.  

Food really does make a difference in so many facets of our lives. If 2020 has taken a toll and you are one of the very many who are suffering from any degree of depression, I encourage you to take charge of your nutrition. Incorporate as many whole foods as you can, focusing on those that are rich in helpful nutrients that will enhance mood and brain function. And remember, if you are need of any assistance, reach out for help!

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