5.16.22
/ Nutrition

Marking Mental Health Awareness Month

May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma many people experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to rising rates of depression and anxiety, substance misuse, and suicide attempts, particularly among marginalized communities.

Good nutrition can improve our mood and cognitive function. The brain needs a good supply of glucose, its primary source of fuel, and complex carbohydrates are the best source. The closer the carbohydrate is to its natural form, the better. This includes a wide variety of unprocessed foods that come from plants, including veggies, fruits, beans, as well as whole grain products.

Maintaining a balanced glucose level (blood sugar) in our blood is also critical for appetite and mood regulation, which is why people can get irritable when they are hungry. If the blood sugar spikes and drops, your mood will tend to do the same. Refined grains contribute to this. Having meals spaced evenly every three to four hours, choosing unrefined carbs and balancing meals with protein and fat, is good for both mood stability and appetite control.

Healthy nutrition also helps to balance inflammation, which research has linked to depression. Western diets lean towards foods that are pro-inflammatory. Animal meats, hydrogenated oils, and many of the chemicals and preservatives in processed foods all have inflammatory qualities.

Take the below steps to improve your body and mind health!

Eat inflammatory food such as omega 3-rich fish three times a week, flax seeds, sour cherries and berries, apples, pears, and pomegranate. Cook with anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, curry, and cinnamon.

Eat probiotics, in fermented foods (sauerkraut, pickles) yogurt and kefir for gut health. Food high in omega-3 fatty acids is also good to increase good gut bacteria. The mind-gut connection is real!

Eat mostly whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Make ¾ of your plate plant-based foods.

Make half of your plate colorful vegetables and divide the other half between a lean protein (fish, beans, lean cuts of meat) and whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, bulgur wheat, barley, sweet potatoes, quinoa).

Choose extra-virgin olive oil for salads, eat avocado, and unsalted raw nuts.

Combine these nutrition tips with regular exercise. It is also important that you find ways to connect with others and stay social.  It is possible to enjoy life fully with a clear and energized mind.

Ask for help. You can call, text or chat with a counselor 24/7/365 through NYC Well.  The service is free, confidential and in more than 200 languages.

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