I've always said I am going to write a book about my road leading to health and wellness. The path for me, as for most people, wasn't linear. It had twists, turns and lots of resistance! For years I battled a severe addiction to alcohol. I was lucky, in that I experienced a true wake up call in the form of a spiritual crisis. I had hit rock bottom and there was a voice I heard in my darkest hour that asked me if I wanted to live or die. Of course, I wanted to live. But, going forward was extremely difficult without my crutch, alcohol.
So, I turned to sugar, which for many recovering alcoholics is common, because sugar acts much the same way alcohol does in the brain. This propelled a spiral of anxiety and depression that had already begun and now was exacerbated by the sugar. I didn't realize that this is what was happening until later. I tried taking prescription antidepressants, which my body immediately rejected. I was left to figure it out on my own. I felt truly helpless and hopeless. I began seeing a variety of natural healers to treat the anxiety and depression. With time, I eventually started to feel better. However, I was overweight and still using sugar as my drug, which was inhibiting my progress big time. I would eat several pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream a week! I was also in a job I disliked and a relationship that was toxic for me. Eventually, I got out of the relationship and the job. I continued to feel better and better but I was still on sugar and was prone to mood swings, emotional outbursts and poor sleep.
One day after a serious sugar binge when I was feeling extremely depressed and gloomy about the whole world, I was talking to a friend and telling her about it, she asked me, "Do you think that the way you feel has something to do with what you ate last night?" It had never occurred to me before this that it would even be possible that these two things were related. So, I started doing some experimenting. The next time I went on a sugar binge, I took notice of how I felt the next day. Sure enough, like crap! As I began to realize this, I started making changes in my eating. I researched what foods might help calm and relax me and I stayed away from sugar and kept caffeine intake at a minimum. I felt so much better. Although it should be noted, it took my body a good three days of detox hell each time I did try going back to sugar. I finally just got sick of feeling like crap and going through the whole cycle again until it wasn't interesting to me anymore.
Around the same time, my mom and now business partner and health coach Sharon, had begun to study the impact of food on the brain. Together we researched the effects of diet and nutrition on mood and came out with some really good information. We wanted to educate others on the power of food as medicine (or poison). Here we've put together a list of foods that are proven to have a positive effect on mood and help combat anxiety and depression:
Avocados are a source of Tryptophan, an amino acid that becomes serotonin in the brain, promoting relaxation. Our bodies do not produce Tryptophan on their own, so we must obtain it from the foods we eat. Avocados are also a source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked with lowering depression.
Two handfuls of cashews are equivalent to a dose of Prozac in their calming effect to the brain, according to Dr. Andrew Saul from the film "Food Matters". The reason for this is again, the high content of Tryptophan.
These little gems are filled with plant nutrients and antioxidants that are proven to be calming and have a stress relieving effect.
Almonds are a great brain food. They are an excellent source of zinc which improves mood and iron which helps clear brain fog.
5) Dark leafy greens - (Kale, broccoli, mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach, dark romaine lettuce)
Among the many nutrients found in dark leafy greens, these are packed full of magnesium which is a mineral that helps calm the mind and relieve stress.
6) Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol and stimulate the brain to make more pleasure chemicals called opiods. A small amount of this delicious treat is all that is needed to reap the stress relieving benefits.
Make sure you're getting enough protein, as a diet high in protein can help reduce anxiety and improve mood function.
Avoid processed foods, alcohol, sugar and keep caffeine intake at a minimum. Note if you are battling depression or anxiety, its always good to discuss treatment options with your healthcare specialist.
To learn more about how to make healthy food choices, check out the nutrition programs we offer which are designed to educate on what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat and more. We offer a group program, which is designed to promote weight loss as well improve overall health and function. We also have an individual program which is custom designed around your needs.
Marie and Sharon Nelson are the owners of Total Body Power. In this blog they impart their expertise, insight and experiences with all aspects health-related. Feel free to comment on this blog or contact them directly: MarieNeslon01@gmail.com and Sharon.Nelson08@gmail.com