Healthy Gut = Healthy Mind
The gut is often referred to as the 'second brain'. Why? Because research reveals that what you put inside of your body and how it reacts in your gut, can have a big impact on things like mental clarity, performance - and even happiness.
In our crazy social-media driven, non-stop email checking, never-ending to-do list world, it is easy to become overwhelmed by anxiety, depression or other mood disorders. Like many others, I have suffered from anxiety in the past and was even taking medication for several years.
My battle with anxiety taught me a few things:
1. Address your stressors
It is essential to make changes to your life to reduce the stress causing the anxiety e.g. reduce social media use, exercise more, learn to say no more often. It's a work in progress...
2. Have a chat
Speak with a counsellor, psychologist or other mental health professional. Seeing my counsellor was key in my recovery and I still meet with him today. I think it's essential - like going to a personal trainer for your brain!
3. Focus on food
Eating the right type of foods can make a massive impact on how you feel emotionally.
So, what foods should you be eating more of if you want to reduce anxiety, better manage stressors and build a happier, healthier brain? Here are my top 5 foods to eat to help create a healthy gut - and a healthier, happier mind:
1. Yoghurt with loads of probiotics
Yoghurt is a bit of an underrated superfood, in my opinion. If you pick the right one, they are packed with probiotics which are are “friendly gut bacteria”. These good gut bacteria have been found to help boost the immune system, promote a healthy digestive tract and therefore - help you combat mental health issues! Hooray.
Try this: Enjoy a serve of yoghurt daily either as a snack, for breakfast with a handful of seeds or in a smoothie. Plain yoghurt with seeds and a drizzle of honey is my favourite weekday breakfast!
This humble legumes contains really good amounts of Vitamin B6, a water-soluable vitamin that is vital in the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals which send messages from the brain to the body.Inadequate levels of B6 has been associated with lethargy and depression so this humble legume can have a serious impact.
Try this: Add a tin of chickpeas into your salad or casserole dish. It soaks up plenty of flavour and is a simple way to encourage a more stable mood.
Around one-quarter of Australians are vitamin D deficient which isn’t good news for our happiness. Low levels of this nutrient has been correlated with depression, as vitamin D helps regulate cell growth and plays a key role in maintaining the immune system.
Fun tip? To get your recommended levels and prevent depression, simply leave any mushrooms out in the sun for just an hour and they will incredibly absorb 100% of your vitamin D needs. If you don’t have the time, check for Vitamin D enriched mushrooms at our local supermarket which will have the same effect.
Try This: Pop your mushrooms out in the sun and cook them with your scrambled eggs, add them to a salad or blend them into your Bolognese.
Spinach and Green vegetables
We all know we should eat our leafy greens, but now research shows that folate (also known as B6 or Folic Acid) found in foods like spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts and avocado helps support healthy levels of happiness neurotransmitter, serotonin. Inadequate levels of folate can cause fatigue as well as a low mood! Oh no... Green leafy veg also contain antioxidants, which help your brain health by stopping free-radical damage to your brain cells, that can lead to a depressed mood.
Try this: Enjoy leafy greens daily in a delicious, fresh salad, in your smoothie or as a side to your brekkie. Cook a side of green veg with your morning eggs or serve with your protein at night. Don't forget to fill up on lots of green salad!
Salmon and other oily fish like sardines and mackerel contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in our brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesised in the body so we need to eat foods that will give us this key nutrient. Studies have shown that consuming omega-3 rich fish like salmon helps decrease the risk of suicide, depression and psychosis.
Eating foods containing omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, chia seeds, walnuts can ward off mood swings and also helps with memory and academic performance.
Try this: Enjoy a piece of oily fish like salmon twice a week. I love to eat my grilled on the BBQ or enjoy some salmon peices the next day in a green salad, with chickpeas, mushrooms and a yoghurt dressing!