Taking care of your mental health isn’t just about your head and heart. It starts in each of your 37.2 (ish) Trillion cells! Yes, every single one of your tiny cells can have a DIRECT IMPACT on the state of your MENTAL health. It’s so incredible how all aspects of your body are marvelously interconnected!
Let’s start our cellular mental health journey by paying a visit to your tiny but mighty mitochondria. Healthy mitochondria use oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for each cell, keeping your cells healthy—able to adapt to stress—and body functioning properly.
Kicking sugar and acid is the MAIN way to keep these stress busters healthy. Exercising, taking supplements, meditation, and breathing exercises (they need oxygen!) are also part of the prescription.
On the flip side, damaging your mitochondria happens when you stuff glucose and glutamine (AKA processed foods, sugars, etc.) in your body and let CORTISOL from chronic stress take over. Did you know that the average American now consumes at least a ½ POUND of SUGAR A DAY?! And when you are stressed, do you often reach for chocolate more? I used to, and it’s a brutal cycle.
Chronic Stress & Cortisol
In the last few years, collectively, the world has been experiencing levels of chronic stress like never seen before. During this time, the brain literally “TURNS OFF” many functions of the immune system to send energy where it is needed at the moment for survival. In this 'flight or fight" stage, your adrenal glands are rapidly producing cortisol and adrenaline.
This can lead to anxiety and depression. Adrenal glands are in charge of your hormones and, when damaged, produce too much estrogen and not enough progesterone leading to a range of health issues.
Stress levels are also the main character, wreaking havoc in your sleep life. We all know that stress leads to terrible sleep. However, being tired the following day isn’t the only villain. A lack of sleep leads to a decrease in naturally made melatonin which weakens your immune system and makes you vulnerable to diseases. And then the cycle spins around again because a weak immune system leads to poor adrenal health and more chronic stress! AHHH!
Eating Well + Managing Stress = Wonderful Mental Health
A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine that researched 46,000 adults from around the world found that:
- In general, a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods, rather than processed foods, reduces symptoms of depression like hopelessness, trouble sleeping, and disconnecting from others.
- People who felt depressed while the study was conducted improved after changing their diets. Not only can eating nutrient-dense foods help prevent depression, but they can also shorten the length and lessen the symptoms of depression.
The Best Mental Health Foods
Below is a quick list of mental health foods, but please click here for the full story.
You are what you eat. Eating foods that fight off depression and restore your cells will make you healthier and happier.
However, what you put into your body isn’t just about food. It is also what you consume through your ears, eyes, and heart. Is watching the news every night making you depressed? Turn it OFF, and play with your kids, go take a walk or maybe pick up that book you’ve been meaning to start!
I also find that taking at least 5 minutes to meditate and do breathing exercises helps calm me down (aka calm my adrenals) and refocus on what is actually important. For some people, this may also look like praying, writing in a journal, repeating mantras, etc. Find what is natural and meaningful to YOU!
The mental health improvement foods list:
- Dark, leafy greens: Magnesium helps your body with over 600 activities, such as learning, memory, and mood.
- Olive oil: It increases the production of key proteins and enzymes for proper brain function and prevention of brain fog.
- Raw nuts: Nuts are high in antioxidants that protect brain cells from inflammation, as there may be a link between brain inflammation and depression.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, peppers, carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are top sources of vitamin K, which regulates calcium in the brain. Calcium depletion is linked to increased anxiety and depression.
- Wild-caught salmon: Their essential fatty acids are necessary to make the chemicals of the brain function properly, which keeps our moods stable and our minds thinking clearly.
In October 2020, Harvard Health Publishing put out a paper that found:
Omega-3s can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. They also have anti-inflammatory actions that may help relieve depression. The study also found promising results of omega-3s helping with postpartum, bipolar disorder, ADD, OCD, and other mood disorders.
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