All over the word good health is associated with happiness. When we feel great, we don’t go to doctors, worry about the diagnosis, spend money, deal with insurance, and hassle with prescriptions all while feeling terrible, scared, aggravated, and anxious about being sick. Feeling well is the goal and throughout my educational video program, I ask, why not take the risk of feeling fabulous?
However, (drum roll please) stress is part of everyday life for most of us. Life is complicated no doubt about it. Yet we have power and ability to combat our feelings of tension, anxiety, or plain old modern misery with healthy wholesome foods. Yes! We can fight the blues with greens!
First, think of how many times have we seen kids melt down after a sugar high and need a time out? (Adults can feel the same way.) We have all seen it, the blissful, excited, perhaps hyper mood…. and then the crash with irritability, and negativity. Time for a time out. Done that myself. We already know that food effects mood just by seeing it occur in our daily life, and there is research to back it up.
- After a traditional Thanksgiving feast many people happily fall asleep due to high levels of tryptophan in the turkey. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin which helps us all feel happier and calmer. Plant based sources of tryptophan include oats, beans, nuts, and lentils.
- Foods containing Folate, a B vitamin, increase our levels of dopamine which offer us feeling of pleasure. Foods include asparagus, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and dried beans.
- Magnesium helps the brain protects itself from stress, reduces anxiety, irritability, and helps us sleep. Plant based sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, whole grain oats, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, legumes, nuts, seeds, and bananas.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids also help us fight stress. Good plant based sources include walnuts, flax seeds, and Brussel sprouts.
- Finally, complex carbohydrates, keep our blood sugar levels calm and steady – versus spiking up and down like crazy – a.k.a. mood swings! Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables have substances called phyto (plant based) nutrients which help inhibit ‘depression associated’ enzymes. Eating lots of fruits and veggies means we are ingesting more phytonutrients which encourage robust brain health. Phytonutrients that inhibit ‘depression associated enzymes’ can especially be found in apples, berries, grapes, kale, onions, and green tea as well as cloves, oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Depression is related to low levels of serotonin and higher levels of inflammation in the body. Plant based diets are naturally lower the inflammation in our bodies because they are full of antioxidants and are low in fat.
To relieve high levels of stress, it’s important to avoid certain foods too! Avoid caffeine, sugar, refined (enriched) carbohydrates, alcohol, food additives, and artificial colorings.
Other amazing research indicates how important food and drink is to our mood and state of mind:
- In a National Institute of Health-AARP study: Scientists found that frequent consumption of artificially sweetened drinks increase depression, especially those with a history of it. This study involved hundreds of thousands of people. Interestingly, they also found the consumption of up to 6 cups of coffee lowered risk of depression.
- After 8 days of artificial sweeteners, people without history of depression reported more irritable mood, exhibited more depression, and performed worse on brain functioning tests. Interesting to note people were ingesting only 25 mg per day – which is half what the FDA says is safe (50 mg per day) and they got those results, wow.
- In August 2015, a study was published in Psychiatry Research that indicated foods with high levels of probiotics helped lowered social anxiety and worry. Eat more sauerkraut and pickles, but not necessarily yogurt with high levels of sugar. Read Dr. Klaper’s excellent article here for more details.
- Another research study using cause and effect science (a very powerful kind of research) has shown us that vegetables and fruit like plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, tomatoes, mushrooms, and soy are associated with less depression because there is significant levels of serotonin and dopamine in those plant based foods.
- According to a study published online in Nutritional Neuroscience, researchers surveyed 620 vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores about their food and mood. Omnivores eat everything including meat and animal based foods. Increased fruit and vegetable intake resulted in lower anxiety scores for male vegan participants, compared with non-vegans. Female vegan participants experienced reduced stress levels as a result of their animal-free diets, as well as their lower intakes of sweets.
- Another study involving Seventh Day Adventists, found vegetarian participants had less negative emotion than omnivores, as shown on two widely used stress and emotion surveys.
- Two other studies of over 7,000 people, aged 25 – 74, have found associations between intake of antioxidants (found in colorful fruits and veggies) and levels of optimism. Of course optimists may also eat more fruits and veggies to start with, but the blood tests results are pretty clear. Colorful fruits and veggies help us maintain a positive mental outlook, who doesn’t want that?
Let’s sum-up a healthy lifestyle; a healthy lifestyle includes a healthy mindset! Everything we talk about in all the sessions comes together for a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy lifestyle includes:
ü Whole Food, Plant Based nutrition
ü Regular exercise
ü Appropriate sleep
ü Minimal alcohol and NO smoking
ü Reducing stress
ü Staying connected with others
As you go about your day, your week, your life, include as much whole, plant based food as you can! The evidence is clear: We feel better when we eat lots of real food. Boxed, processed, artificially enhanced, and enriched foods found in most grocery stores and restaurants is simply not good for our mood. Who needs that? What have you got to lose? Why not take the risk of feeling fabulous? Happy Eating!
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