Did you know your chance of experiencing depressive tendencies increases by 60% when a nutrient deficient, highly processed diet is consumed? This happens because diets high in processed foods increase pro-inflammatory markers which interact with proteins in our brain and change them.
The brain-gut connection is key here. Our digestive tract extracts all the nutrients from our food and delivers it into the blood, where it circulates and distributes it to our brain, organs, muscles and cells.
Most importantly 80% of serotonin, our happy hormone, is made in the gut then delivered to the brain. Having an optimal gut environment, which is very much influenced by the food we eat, is key for the production of this important happiness hormone.
So What Can We Eat To Be Happier?
A whole food diet is foundational. Our bodies know what to do with real food i.e. food that can be grown in the ground, killed or picked off a tree. These foods help improve the environment of our digestive tract, decrease inflammation and produce the hormones we need. Make sure you are hitting 6 serves of vegetables a day, in a range of colours to cover the spectrum of vitamins and minerals our bodies need to work.
Omega-3 is great for brain function and reducing inflammation. It has also been shown to ease symptoms of depression. Found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, also nuts and seeds.
B-vitamins, not only to make you happier but are vital for optimal body function. The best part is they are found in so many foods: meat, green leafy vegetables, eggs, seafood, legumes. Specifically deficiencies in B12 have been linked to depression (2014 British Journal of Psychiatry). B12 can only be extracted from animal protein, so if you are following an animal free diet, this is one to supplement (under supervision of a practitioner).
Selenium is an essential mineral, which means our body cannot produce it we have to get from food. It is a potent antioxidant and low levels have been linked to mental disorders. Found in cod, Brazil nuts, walnuts and poultry.
Tryptophan is vital for our bodies to convert the protein we eat into the 22 essential amino acids our bodies need each day. We cannot store protein so we need to keep nourishing our bodies with this. It is also necessary to make Serotonin our happy hormone. Found in beef, turkey and dark leafy greens.
Nurture your gut bacteria with good quality yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, bone broth and kombucha – a gelatinous mass of symbiotic bacteria (as Acetobacter xylinum) and yeasts (as of the genera Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces) grown to produce a fermented beverage held to confer health benefits.
These little guys do so much work to keep us healthy and happy. If you think this could be a problem for you please seek help in this area as gut health does need to be properly managed.
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