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Does Food Really Matter in Treating Mental Illness?

“When most people think of boosting their brain power, they think of learning something new or engaging in thought-provoking debate. As it turns out, one of the best ways to improve your mental health is through your gut.” – Carolyn Ross, M.D.

hand on magazine with breakfast foods and tea on a desk. healthy eating and mental illness. ian robertson. niagara region

Eating foods filled with refined sugars, flours, and chemicals listed as the first three ingredients all produce indigestion and inflammation. These are the basic blockers to serotonin and neurotransmitter production. These foods frankly exasperate anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Also, one must consider that the brain is 60% FAT!!! Those of you that have embraced the Standard American Diet (otherwise known as the SAD diet) have bought into the idea of LOW FAT. The lack of Omega-3 fatty acid. Ross states, “In studies, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild cold water fish (e.g., salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel), seaweed, chicken fed on flaxseed and walnuts, have been shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other mental disorders. This is likely because of the effect omega-3s have on the production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals responsible for our moods), including dopamine and serotonin. By supporting the synapses in the brain, omega-3s also boost learning and memory.”

What foods really matter? What foods can make a difference in moving individuals in the direction from mental illness to mental wellness?

  1. Food rich in Omega-3

  2. Fish – salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, trout, anchovies, blue fish, bass, oysters

  3. Seaweed

  4. Chickens fed on flaxseed

  5. Walnuts

  6. Healthy Carbohydrates – which do not spike blood sugar levels

  7. Whole-wheat

  8. Bulgar

  9. Oats

  10. Wild rice

  11. Barley

  12. Beans

  13. Soy

  14. All the beautiful colours of fresh produce, which create the “brainbow”

  15. Lean protein – Ross suggests “The amino acid tryptophan, a building block of protein, influences mood by producing the neurotransmitter serotonin.” These food can be referred to as natures equivalent of an antidepressants.

  16. Fish

  17. Turkey

  18. Chicken

  19. Eggs

  20. Beans

As we think about shifting or enhancing mood, addressing the brain without the belly may have limited success. In our private practice, we offer a program called “Mood, Food, and Activation”. All of our clients are encouraged to attend this psycho-educational group on the brain/belly connection and better understanding nature’s natural way of improving mood and mood states. Try this out yourself for about 4 weeks and see if you experience the enhancement of mood through food.

Happy eatings!!


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