Guest article by Cassie Christensen
It can be confusing to always think about what foods we should or shouldn’t be eating, especially when our bodies change regularly. What has not changed is the direct link between what we eat and how we feel. Eating properly is shown to improve mood, boost energy, and help you think more clearly. Here are some tips to help you make easy changes in your diet for mental wellness:
When our blood sugar drops, we are left feeling tired, irritable, and depressed. When we eat regularly and eat slow-release energy foods (whole grains, bananas, etc.), our sugar levels remain steadier. This can be as easy as ensuring that you eat breakfast, eating smaller, but more frequent meals throughout the day, and avoiding food that makes your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly (sweets, sugary drinks, alcohol).
It can be very difficult to concentrate or stay in a good mood when we don’t drink enough fluids. You can avoid this by drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily. Try getting a refillable water bottle and set a goal each day to fill it up a certain amount of times. Sometimes the trick is to have fluids more readily available.
Look After Your Gut
It has been thought that your gut reflects your emotions. When you are stressed or anxious, your gut may slow down or speed up. Aim for healthy digestion by having plenty of fiber and fluids, while exercising regularly. Go for foods such as: fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, live yogurt, and other probiotics. It may take weeks or even months to get used to a new way of eating, so make sure you are allowing yourself time to adjust to these changes. Breathing and relaxation exercises also positively helps your gut health!
Manage Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant that gives a quick burst of energy. The down side of that is being left feeling anxious, depressed, or unable to sleep. If you find that you are drinking a lot of coffee or caffeinated tea, try to switch to decaffeinated versions. Although you may experience some withdrawals (if you are used to consuming a lot of caffeine), your anxiety will thank you later.
Eat Enough Protein
Protein helps you feel fuller longer and is comprised of amino acids, which are chemicals that your brain needs to regulate thoughts and feelings. Regardless of your diet, make sure you are getting adequate protein. If you don’t eat meat, try going for protein alternatives, such as: seitan, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, spelt, hempseed, or green peas.
Eat The “Right” Fats
Your brain needs fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) to keep it working well. We tend to want to avoid fats altogether, even though we benefit from consuming them. You will find healthy fats in oily fish, poultry, nuts, olive oil, seeds, avocados, milk, cheese, and eggs. You want to try to avoid anything that has a lot of trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils because they don’t help your mood and physical health in the long run.
Developing healthier eating habits, such as incorporating more protein, fruits, and vegetables, can have clear benefits on your mental wellbeing. Keep in mind, you should always consult with your doctor prior to altering your diet. While nutrition helps mental health, you also want to make sure you are working with a licensed professional who can help.
Author Bio: Cassie Christensen
Cassie is a talk therapist & mental health practice owner. She specializes in helping professionals become the best version of themselves. She often provides clients with practical techniques based on humanistic psychology to find knowledge, growth, healing & fulfillment.
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