As we all know, diet and nutrition are very important to our physical health. Eating poorly can result in a lot of health issues, such as developing cardiovascular disease. We know to stay away from things like processed food and fried food to maintain better physical health. What about mental health? It seems that we rarely discuss nutrition although we know that physical heath (body) is connected to mental health (mind) vise versa. Because of this mind-body connection, it is worthwhile to understand the importance of keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle so I put together some simple changes you can make to improve and support your mental health that I personally tried and recommend.
Choose quality vitamins over inexpensive alternatives
Not so long ago, I wrote an article about the importance of supplementing with B12 as severe deficiency can cause depression and other symptoms. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I would like to encourage you to read it first here.
There are different brands of vitamins out there but making sure to take one which contains B12 in the form of Methylcobalamin will ensure better absorption and usability by the body.
I take Multi-vitamins for Women from Smartypants because it provides B12 in the form of methylcobalamin and it is widely available in most grocery or drug stores. The price is also affordable, and the bonus is that they are yummy too!
Take it easy on sugar
When I first started to cut down on sugar, it wasn’t because I knew it would help with my mood and depression, but it was because I needed to lose some weight. Considering how heavily I was consuming sugar for the past decades, it seemed nearly impossible at first. My diet was so unhealthy that I would literally eat cookies as a meal instead of eating wholesome food. Anyhow, I was able to go on a low sugar diet with encouragement and support from my family.
It was after I’ve been on the low to almost no sugar diet that I noticed my mental fog clearing away and my mood improving. This is when I got curious and did some research on the benefit of a low sugar diet. There are numerous studies and researches that were done that suggest the link between high consumption of sugar and depression. Here is a link to one great article that explains this further in details. It is alarming to know the impact sugar has on our cognitive function and mood. A lot of times, we learn the health benefit of certain foods and diet first and then we try them to hopefully experience those benefit. My experience was backward as you see. However, in a way, I am glad it was that way because I know for certain that it was truly the change I made to cut out sugar that triggered improvement on my mood and not the expectation or placebo effect.
Here are some baby steps and ideas I tried to cut down on sugar:
- Step 1 – Stop drinking soda and sweetened drinks
- Step 2 – If you have a hard time giving up on sugar and desserts, try limiting to one dessert a day and work your way from there.
- Step 3 – Once you are comfortable with one dessert a day, try switching to zero sugar desserts such as chocolates sweetened with stevia instead of sugar.
- Step 4 – Stick with your routine! As surprising as it may seem now, the best part about this is that you will actually start to lose your cravings for sugar over time. I was one of them who thought that was impossible, but it does happen, trust me 🙂
Consider decaf and other alternatives to coffee
I know this one is going to be a hard one for most of us. Who doesn’t love a cup of coffee in the morning, between breaks, or even after a long day? I understand our love for coffee and how hard it is to give that up. However, we all know that caffeine makes us alert, and sometimes it also can add up to increased anxiety. By simply reducing caffeine intake, we can reduce our anxiety level.
I used to get chest pain every morning due to anxiety. However, I was also having coffee in the morning, which clearly worsened the chest pain. After I saw my psychiatrist and told her about my chest pain, she advised me to switch to decaf, which I initially thought wouldn’t help at all with my anxiety. Surprisingly for me, my chest pain slowly went away after I made the switch to decaf. Today, I hardly ever get one in the morning.
For some of you who love the taste of coffee and feel that decaf just doesn’t do the justice, I have some advice for you. Try looking into quality French roast decaf. Because it is a dark roast, it gives you that real coffee tastes we all crave, and I found it really satisfying and almost felt like I was drinking a real coffee. You can find these anywhere, but I found mine at Sprouts just to give you an example.
Now, I also know that we need that energy boost in the morning, and oftentimes that is the main reason why it is so hard to quit on coffee. I am definitely one of them, but I have found what works for me to give me the energy boost I need without getting me in high anxiety. I drink this superfood green juice, which is essentially natural caffeine and also gives me my daily greens. Despite what it looks like, the taste is actually really good, and I have been using this as a replacement for my caffeinated coffee. It gives me just enough energy to wake up and take on the day without giving me any chest pain, so I highly recommend this to those who need the energy boost in the morning.
Avoid processed food
Although it tastes good to most of us and it might even make us feel good at the moment, try replacing processed food with homemade meals and fresh fruits. I believe we all know and understand this one very well, but it is just a matter of changing our eating habit. We already know that processed food is not good for us and there is rarely any nutrition in it compared to homemade meals. Understanding the connection between mind and body, taking great care of our body by ensuring it receives enough nutrient is a necessary foundation for better mental health. Same goes with sleep and we know about that all too well. The body won’t run optimally when we are short on sleep or eating unhealthy foods all the time. So I challenge you to take a baby step today by either looking up a recipe and find a routine you can stick to and start changing the way you eat. Remember, baby steps go a long way and no matter how small that step is, the most important part is that you take that step forward!
These are the four simple changes you can make today that are manageable, and they will truly make a great difference in your anxiety level and depression. I recommend trying one thing at a time and see if you notice any improvement in how you feel. We often underestimate the power of baby steps but I encourage you to start with what you can at a pace you can handle. Remember, this is for you and about you. I hope you will get to feel even just slightly better with these simple changes. Please let us know in the comment section below 🙂