March Health Series: Optimizing Mental Health

| Sarah Johnson, MS, RD

It is no surprise to most that mental health issues are on the rise in the United States, but you may be surprised to hear that mental health concerns are a top cause of disability in the United States.  While the connection between nutrition and physical well-being has long been recognized, recent research has shed light on the equally important relationship between what we eat and our mental health.  When it comes to depression and anxiety, what is on your plate matters. Here are 5 ways you can protect your mental health with nutrition:

1. Heal Your Gut:  Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach at an anxious thought? There is direct and constant communication between our brains and our guts.  A healthy gut means a healthy brain.  Serotonin is often called the “Happy Hormone” and 95% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut.  Serotonin communicates with your brain, influencing your mood, emotions, and stress response. Less serotonin leads to more anxiety and depression symptoms.  High stress, environmental toxins, and a diet high in sugar and trans-fat can all lead to an unhealthy gut, and lower levels of serotonin.  If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, try adding the following gut healing practices to your daily diet: Bone Broth: ½ cup twice a day for 2 weeks and a Vitamin D supplement: 500-1,000 IU.

2. Get Friendly with Friendly Bacteria:  Recent research shows us that a diverse and balanced gut microbiome (meaning a variety of gut bacteria) is associated with better mental health.  When we lack a diverse gut microbiome, harmful bacteria grow, which is linked to depression and anxiety. The best way to diversify your gut is through intake of probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, or apple cider vinegar.   If you do not find these foods enticing, luckily, you can buy probiotic supplements. Ask your doctor or dietitian for a specific probiotic recommendation. Basic tip: look for a probiotic with at least 10 billion CFUs and keep them always refrigerated.

3. Increase Intake of Omega 3’s: Sufficient intake of Omega 3s is one of the best things you can do for your mental health, yet most Americans do not get the recommended daily intake.  Omega 3 intake helps decrease inflammation in the brain, which can not only help with anxiety and depression, but it can even decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s down the road.  Foods that are high in Omega 3’s include:  fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.  If you choose to take an Omega 3 supplement, choose a brand that does 3rd party testing for mercury. 

4. Do Not Overlook the Micronutrients:  A diet deficient in certain vitamins, particularly folate, vitamin B12, and zinc has been connected to mental health decline. Intake of key micronutrients has shown to improve brain function and reduce anxiety and depression.  Good sources of these important nutrients are: dark leafy greens, legumes, and lean meats.

5. Ditch the Sugar: Diets high in sugar lead to increased inflammation, decreased gut health, and a disruption of serotonin production.  High-sugar diets also lead to rapid changes in blood sugar, which can affect mood.  Most Americans consume 2-3 times more than the recommended daily intake of sugar.  To watch your sugar intake, watch what you drink.  Sugary beverages account for 47% of American’s added sugar intake.  The next area to watch is snacks.  Try replacing your high-sugar snacks with protein or high-fiber foods.  Good snack choices are hard boiled eggs, carrots with dip, nuts, fresh fruit, or string cheese. 

By prioritizing gut health through balanced nutrition, stress management, and probiotic supplementation, individuals can enhance their mental well-being and resilience to life’s stressors. Click here to learn more about our dietary services at Live Your Life and contact us today for a free consultation!  

Share Post:

What makes us different? Our care comes to you!

View Our Service Area

We Are A Comprehensive Mobile Company Focused on Wellness, Fitness, Rehabilitation, and Prevention

We specialize in transforming the lives of seniors, adults and teenagers with a wide array of diagnoses and conditions in their home or location of choice. You deserve to be your best self through good health and wellness. We would love to have the privilege to work with you or a loved one.

Request a FREE Consultation Today!