Does diet matter for the symptoms of mental health issues?
YES! Diet and mental health issues can be incredibly interrelated. Most of us understand that the more stressed out you are, the more likely you are to suffer from depression and anxiety. Many people, however, have no idea that their dietary choices may influence their moods.
There is a lot of research out there on the importance of a nutritional diet. If we eat only processed foods, take out, or what is convenient, we miss out on a lot of nutrients that we need to keep our bodies healthy and our mental health stable. If we lack certain foods in our diet, we can become depleted from the natural chemicals that allow our brains to function properly.
For problems with depression and anxiety, be sure to eat a variety of whole foods that contain these nutrients:
Iron:A diet too low in iron can lead to depression, fatigue, and inattention. Eat enough organic meats, egg yolks, dried fruit, beans, and/or artichokes to get your iron. Also Stinging Nettle is a great source of iron.
Thiamine: Insufficient thiamine (one of the B vitamins) makes people more introverted and inactive because they report fatigue, decreased self-confidence, and a poorer mood. Make sure you get enough whole grains, yeast, cauliflower, and eggs to get your thiamine. Supplements are available to help increase this as well.
Folic acid: Too little folic acid can lead to depression, especially in men. Stock up on green veggies, oranges, grapefruit, nuts, sprouts, whole-wheat bread, and legumes. Folic Acid supplements are also available.
B-12: Low levels of B-12 may cause depression, especially in women. Eat lean and low-fat animal products to get your fill. Natural herbs rich in Vitamin B12 are alfalfa, dandelion, hawthorn berries, hops, bladder wrack, and white oak bark.
Selenium: Known to be important for eye health, a lack of selenium increases anxiety, irritability, hostility, and depression. Eat Brazil nuts, tuna, sunflower seeds, whole-grain cereals, or swordfish to get your daily quota. Herbal sources of selenium are burdock root, alfalfa, fenugreek, fennel seed, catnip, chamomile, garlic, cayenne, nettle, oat-straw, yarrow, peppermint, sarsaparilla, lemongrass, ginseng, hawthorn berry, rose hips and raspberry-leaf.
Choline: People low in choline (a crucial neurotransmitter precursor) report impaired memory and concentration. There's some evidence that chronically low choline levels may contribute to Alzheimer's disease. Soybeans, egg yolks, butter, peanuts, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, oats, sesame seeds, grass-fed beef, and flaxseed are great sources of choline.
Vitamin D: Low levels of this important nutrient increase symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder. Why? Vitamin D increases serotonin production. Make sure you get 10 minutes of sunshine a day without sunscreen or being fully covered up. Drink milk or soymilk fortified with Vitamin D, or eat fish or eggs to get your daily needs met. Vitamin D supplements are also available
Benefits of Exercise
In 1966 the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health reported, “Exercise helps depression, anxiety and stress.”
There are healthy benefits that can come from eating a healthier diet and to move at least once a day for 30 minutes, especially for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, and stress
Benefits of Exercise:
*Vigorous exercise stimulates the brain’s release of endorphins. These chemicals are responsible for producing feelings of well-being, in the past referred to as a “runners’ high.”
*It reduces cortisol, the stress-inducing hormone.
*Exercise also can suppress and reduce other chemicals within the body which can heighten feelings of anxiety and depression.
*Strenuous exercise tires the body so that sleep comes more easily, an important component for sufferers from PTSD.
*Exercise delivers intrinsic benefits such as improved self-esteem and increased feelings of control over one’s body.
*Exercise lifts mood through boosting a sense of accomplishment, confidence, elevating hopefulness, and distraction from negative thoughts and improved cognitive functioning.