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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - August 2016 - Kansas City
Food and Mood: Eating Your Way to Feeling Good
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
“You are what you eat,” has new meaning today. Current research indicates more strongly that nutrition, in the form of food and supplements, plays an influential role in our mental health. Good nutrition is needed for countless aspects of brain functioning. When the brain is fed properly with balanced nutritional intake, the result is amazing.
Deficiencies of folate, Vitamin B12, iron, zinc and selenium tend to be more common among depressed than nondepressed persons. Fish oil and folic acid supplements have been used to treat depression successfully. (L. Bodnar & K. Wisner; Nutrition and Depression)
In “Understanding Nutrition, Depression and Mental Illness” by Sathyanarayana Rao, Asha, Ramesh and Rao state “…nutrition can play a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression.” They relate that the same food patterns that precede depression also occur during depression. They may include poor appetite, skipping meals, and a dominant desire for sweet foods. This article contains much more information about the nutritional aspects of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals and their contribution to good mental health.
This group of psychiatrists, agreeing with a number of other studies, tell us that fish or fish oil (Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids) is significant in reducing depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD and addictive/compulsive behaviors.
Eva Selhub MD in “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food” states that studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria) their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve. She also relates that studies have compared ‘traditional diets’ like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet to the typical Western diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25%-35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Since gut health contributes to good brain health, fermented foods can positively affect our mood and energy levels.
There is general consensus that diets with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and seafood, modest amounts of lean protein and little to no processed foods or sugars contribute to better brain functioning resulting in good mental health.
Good nutritional habits that begin in childhood will serve us well throughout our lives. Some area programs like the “Farm to School Academy” sponsored by kchealthykids.org “engages school staff and faculty, district stakeholders, parents and students in activities that increase awareness of our local food system and generate excitement about the possibilities for bringing fresher, local food to schools.”
The Kansas City Community Gardens sponsors the Schoolyard Gardens program working with schools metro-wide to establish vegetable gardens on school grounds. They provide technical assistance to students and faculty as they learn about gardening, nutrition and healthy eating habits, plant science and environmental awareness. Every aspect of these two programs helps with mental and physical health. Not only are children learning to grow and eat healthy food but they are getting great exercise outdoors working in a collaborative group effort. As a mental health professional and educator, these programs make my heart sing!
It is indisputable that paying more attention to our nutritional life can greatly help our mental health. Every day I faithfully take my Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3), multi-vitamin and probiotics, along with other supplements for joint health. The nutritional suggestions that assist in healthy heart, lungs and joints also help me fight depression and anxiety. These are habits worth cultivating. You will find yourself enjoying good food giving you great moods and energy to spare.
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to