Eating for Your Brain

Welcome back to the ZanZen blog! This week I wanted to expand on how taking care of our physical health positively affects our mental health. Exercise is one way to combat mental health disorders, as well as paying attention to our nutrition. When we combine consistent exercise with thoughtful, healthy eating, we can form a better grasp on our mental health. 

With natural highs and lows in our moods, weight, and stress, it helps to have a few things that we do have complete control over. One of those things being what we eat. No person is necessarily “required” to eat or not to eat any food outside of allergies and intolerances. When we reach the point of independence, feeding ourselves can become a new battle. Young adults leave their childhood home, and suddenly they are responsible for their own nutritional choices. No longer is someone buying groceries to fill the pantry or fridge for them, or is ordering or picking up food. Whether that included healthy or unhealthy foods, what was provided, was what they would eat. Once that responsibility is transfered, it can lead to similar food choices, or a difference in choices, which can be good and bad. 

When is comes down to fueling our bodies, there are many different routes. Food can be brought to our front door, we can drive through a fast food restraunt in a few minutes, we can buy frozen dishes, cook, or a combination of these. However, if we are not educated on how to cook a balanced meal at home that is filling and tastes good, eating from restraunts becomes a much easier, more convenient choice. But it can also be a very expensive route to take, and can negatively influence our mental health. High sugar content and processed foods have been linked to an increase in the effects of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and can even impact our sleep patterns. Keeping these at a minimum in our diet, while increasing the presence of certain foods known to help mental health disorders may help our brain functioning and mood states more than you know!

Making healthy choices can do so much for our body’s appearance and energy levels, but can also have a great impact on our brain. DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid, is found in oily fish, seaweed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, and is a way to combat high levels of anxiety and depression. Another example is wholegrains, which are high in tryptophan, an amino acid known to help increase the production of serotonin. From our last blog, we know serotonin is one of the same chemicals released during exercise, known to make us feel more uplifted and calm. Many other foods, including beans, leafy greens, walnuts, and yogurt are also known to improve mental health states. Notice none of these are processed or include high amounts of sugar, aren’t crazy expensive items or difficult to find! 

When grocery shopping, especially when keeping mental health states in mind, stay away from aisles! It sounds ricidulous when the store seems to only be rows of aisles, but think about what is around the edges of the grocery store. Fruits, vegetables, fresh seafood and meats, dairy, yogurt, eggs! Of course, there are some things you may need to venture into the center of store for, like nuts and seeds or oats and grains. Having a specific plan as you go into the store for what you will need from the aisles is a good way to avoid buying processed, high sugar foods. Follow this tip and you will soon realize there are plenty of aisles you don’t need to bother parusing through anymore. 

By sticking to this rule for grocery shopping, your chances of eating better for your mental health increases. Staying away from processed foods and high amounts of sugar can bring anxiety and depression levels down significantly. Then add consistent exercise as we discussed in the previous blog, and finding control over our mental health becomes much more attainable. Planning before going to the store and for future meals takes practice and a little extra effort. But your body, and your brain will thank you for putting in those few extra minutes!

For more nutritional advice and guidance, ask us at ZanZen! Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week! 

~ Don’t forget to breathe ~

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