If you’re burdened with persistent brain fog and anxiety, you’re not alone.
As a Harvard nutritionist and psychiatrist, I have spent decades researching how anxiety affects many aspects of physical health, including immunity, inflammation, diet, and metabolism.
I always tell people that food and nutrition are invaluable tools that can help us relieve anxiety, focus, and improve overall mental health.
There are six rules I follow for a calm, strong, and happy mind:
1. Eat whole to stay whole
I use ingredients that are unprocessed, or as minimally processed as possible.
For example, vegetables, berries, unprocessed grains and beans are great sources of fiber, which is important for gut health and creating an environment where good bacteria can thrive.
And complex carbs, such as those found in vegetables, are processed more slowly by your body. This means that eating them may help you avoid spikes in your blood sugar. A healthy metabolism is an important factor in keeping anxiety at bay.
2. Eat a variety of colors
From the deep green of broccoli and spinach to the bright yellow of carrots and peppers, eating a variety of colors provides a steady supply of nutrients that are essential for proper brain function and a calm mind.
But it’s not just fruits and vegetables. Herbs and spices like saffron, rosemary, turmeric, black pepper and basil also bring color, flavor and anxiety-fighting properties to your food in the form of complex substances called bioactives.
For example, the bioactive curcumin found in turmeric may help manage inflammation and high cholesterol.
3. Increase micronutrients
Vitamins B-complex, C, D and E, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are all important micronutrients that can help reduce anxiety.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, so one of my favorite pairings is extra dark natural chocolate and a slice of orange or clementine. Cocoa is a source of iron, but since it is derived from a plant, the vitamin C helps in maximum absorption. That’s why it’s such a powerful combination.
Many micronutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect your brain from long-term decline. They also help produce and regulate mood chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
4. Prioritize healthy fats
Your brain is made up of 60% fat, and a steady supply of healthy fats is one of the most important factors in keeping it healthy and anxiety-free.
Olive and avocado oils are anti-inflammatory and promote good gut and metabolic health. These should be your main oils for meal preparation and make up the majority of your fat intake. I avoid safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils, which often contain unhealthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
But healthy omega-3 PUFAs (fats found in seafood, nuts, and seeds) are important for reducing anxiety, preventing neuroinflammation, and protecting against neurodegeneration.
5. Avoid foods that spike your blood sugar
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly foods affect our blood sugar levels.
So high-GI carbs like refined wheat flour, white rice and other starches can spike your blood sugar, which could mean a burst of energy and a subsequent crash. This boom and bust cycle is related to anxiety.
You get natural sugars from fruits and vegetables, so added sugars, which are high-GI foods and have little or no nutritional benefit, should be kept to a minimum.
6. Find stability and balance
To create a nutrition plan that’s right for you, stick to healthy foods that match the flavor profiles and eating patterns you already like.
Finally, listen to your body. If you feel irritable, irritable, hungry, or jumpy after eating certain foods, try eliminating them from your diet. If you don’t feel good after eating something, it’s probably not good for you.
Uma NaiduMD, is a board-certified Harvard nutrition psychiatrist, chef, nutritional biologist and author of “This is your brain on food” And “calm your mind with food.” She is also the founder of America’s first and only hospital-based nutrition and lifestyle psychotherapy service at Massachusetts General Hospital, the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Follow her. Instagram,
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