Multiple variables in our lives add up to causing or making worse our mental health-and if anyone knows how interrelated mental and physical health can be, it’s me. The last year of my life has been filled with life-or-death changes and decisions for my health, including changes in my thought life, my family life, my work life, my lifestyle and my diet. Diet plays SUCH an incredibly important role in our mental health, because of how our bodies respond to or digest the food we eat. There are foods that can make anxiety far worse, and there are foods that can drastically help our brains to heal. Our gut (which is for some weird reason a buzz word right now; maybe because everyone is so stressed out?) has a surprisingly big impact on how and if our minds receive serotonin and dopamine (two neurotransmitters whose balance are necessary for mental and physical health). They play leading roles in our emotional wellness, and it’s important to make sure that those levels are balanced in our bodies.
Of course, diet alone cannot solve all of your mental needs. Therapy, sleep, a healthy lifestyle and a strong support system among other things are also vital; but, a healthy, anti-inflammatory + high serotonin diet is a wonderful place to begin.
Inflammation in our bodies, over an extended period of time, can lead to auto-immune disorders, heart disease, schizophrenia and some cancers among other scary issues. According to George Slavich, an associate professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, “Diet is one of the key factors that influences inflammation in the body.”
The diet I am sharing below is my personal guideline that I use for choosing what foods I eat that help me stay healthy. I am no professional dietician, and every individual has their own, specific needs, meaning this diet may not have the same benefits for you as it does for me. It’s also worth mentioning that in reading about historical Creek Indian culture recently, I stumbled upon their diet. It was beautifully low-inflammatory, and high antioxidant. Basically, we’re going to take some tips from them and “when in lower Alabama, eat as the native Alabamians did”. (That’s the saying, right?)
Note: This is not a weight loss/gain diet, but instead, an anti-inflammatory diet that keeps my body in a personal safe zone. If you have restrictions or special dietary needs for your health journey, I recommend reaching out to a dietician or health specialist. This diet is a anti-inflammatory, high dopamine, high serotonin diet.
Happy Body + Happy Mind Diet
What to include:
Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries
Bell Peppers, Chili Peppers
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Immune System Boosters (probiotic bacteria)
What to stay away from/ enjoy sparingly (inflammatory foods):
Anything artificial (including artificial trans fats, like what is found in margarine)
Fried foods (my southern people)
Sugar/ High-fructose corn syrup
Vegetable and seed oils
*Coffee, especially if acidic, can be problematic for your digestive and mental health too, even though it is incredibly high in antioxidants. This is one that is different for every person.
**Though cheeses are huge boosters of dopamine and serotonin, they are also dairy, meaning they are inflammatory. I include lots of dairy in my personal diet, meaning that the rest of what I eat needs to be very anti-inflammatory to balance out.