October 10th is World Mental Health Day; it is estimated that mental health conditions cost Canada $51 billion dollars annually. “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” When you think of your mental health, you may not think your diet plays a key role; however, what you are eating can largely impact your mental wellbeing. Consuming a balanced diet can provide our brain all the nutrients it needs to properly function. Nutrients like Vitamin B6 are important for the production of dopamine-the sleep hormone, or omega-3 helps with brain signaling. A diet high in refined carbohydrates can lead to a cascade of other events in the body that can leave you feeling fatigued. Did you realize your morning everything bagel may be leading to your 10am crash?
Further, your mental health could have a large impact on your health- under or overnutrition is a concern. Anxiety may cause you to be unable to sit for the duration of a meal, having smaller, more frequent meals may help you meet your nutritional needs. In comparison, someone who frequently experiences panic attacks may use food for comfort, leading to overnutrition. This can be managed by having low-calorie snacks available. Sleep problems can also lead to overnutrition via late night eating or increased caffeine intake. A balanced diet is key for optimal mental health; including dark green leafy vegetables, orange-colored vegetables and whole grains. Also, weekly consumption of fatty fish such as mackerel or hearing.
There is another way what you are eating can affect your mental wellbeing and that is through the “second brain” located in the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers have determined that the majority of the serotonin produced in the body is in the gut. Serotonin is known as the happiness molecule, but it is also responsible for contracting the muscles in the GI tract to move things along. Because of this, individuals on certain antidepressant medications may notice a change in their bowel movements. A key example of how the brain and the gut are connected. It is important to recognize the connection between the mind and body when developing supports for those living with mental health conditions.
Whipped Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl
Make your own Whipped Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl topped with berries, coconut flakes, and hazelnuts. A perfect treat that tastes indulgent but is actually very healthy!
1/2 cup low fat or fat-free cottage cheese
1/4 cup blackberries
1/2 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes
1 oz. hazelnuts
- In a small food processor or personal blender, pulse the cottage cheese until it is smooth and creamy, for about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the seeds from the pomegranate.
- Optional: Toast the coconut flakes and hazelnuts in a skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Serve right away or leave in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
You can substitute the fruit for any fruit of your choice. You can also try adding ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, or ground cinnamon.
SOURCE – Jenelle McAuley, RD