We have all experienced the tired, sluggish feeling we get from eating too much turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, so you probably already know that what you eat can affect more than just your waistline. But did you know that there is a link between nutrition and mental wellness? According to the Harvard Health Blog, rapid declines in blood sugar levels can “cause you to feel jittery, which may worsen underlying anxiety.” Nutrient deficiencies may increase symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. To help keep your mood stable and blood sugar levels under control during this busy holiday season, try some of these easy tips.*
Increase Omega 3 fatty acids: Foods such as fresh water fish (ex. salmon) and flaxseed, chia, and walnuts all have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t get enough of these foods in your diet, a fish oil supplement can be a great way to get the recommended amount (at least 250mg, but up to 1000mg for some health conditions).
Add foods rich in Selenium: According to an article published by the Department of Psychology at University College in Swansea, Wales, foods rich in selenium can increase your mood and decrease anxiety. Brazil nuts and eggs give you this much-needed mineral and as a bonus, provide an added protein boost! Other foods high in selenium include brown rice, sunflower seeds, spinach, and plain oatmeal.
Increase magnesium and B vitamins: Studies have shown that low levels of magnesium and B vitamins can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. Magnesium can also be helpful for folks who suffer from insomnia. Taking a good multivitamin with the right amount of not just magnesium and B vitamins, but all the essential vitamins and minerals, can keep your body thriving.
Decrease caffeine intake: This is every coffee lover’s least favorite health tip, so I apologize in advance for all of you who can’t function until you get your morning latte. Because caffeine can increase your heart rate and breathing, your mind may interpret this as nervous system activation similar to the “fight or flight” response. Not everyone is sensitive to caffeine, so Susan Bowling from the Women’s Health Center at the Wooster Branch of Cleveland Clinic recommends keeping a journal of your mood and caffeine levels throughout the week to find out how it impacts you.
Take probiotics: It seems like every week more research is coming out about the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome. Keeping the balance of microorganisms in your gastrointestinal tract starts with a healthy diet, but adding a probiotic supplement can help as well. There are even gut microbiome testing companies such as Viome and uBiome that can help you determine supplements and foods that are best for your particular microorganism makeup.
Like all of the work we do on ourselves throughout our life, following these tips may take some time before you notice a difference. But as they say, you are the greatest project you will ever work on, and we think your body deserves delicious food, self-love, and compassion.
PS If you liked these tips, check out my Clean Eating Guide!
*Please check with your doctor before adding vitamin/mineral supplements to your diet.
Yield: 20 pieces (one inch size)
1/2 cup pumpkin (pumpkin from a can is fine!)
⅓ cup almond butter
3 TB. lucuma powder
3 TB. maple syrup
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup melted coconut butter
3 TB. melted coconut oil
Sea salt to taste
Cacao Nibs (optional)
Finely chopped pecans (optional)
Mix pumpkin, almond butter, lucuma powder, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Melt coconut butter and coconut oil together over low heat or using a double boiler. Pour coconut mixture into the pumpkin mixture, combine well. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and press the mixture into the plastic lined container. Top with cacao nibs for an extra chocolatey crunch or chopped pecans for a nutty flavor. Chill for 3-4 hours. Cut into small pieces and enjoy! Store in freezer.