We are what we eat, so the saying goes. It’s no secret that how we feel often determines what we eat. What’s less known is that what we eat determines what we feel — and we’re not just talking about stomach aches and hangovers. When experiencing loss, our brains often produce more CRH, a hormone that produces anxiety-like symptoms. Increased stress stimulates the central nervous system, which can affect everything from our breathing to our sleep patterns. Our digestion, metabolism, circulation and respiration change. Our ability to concentrate and pay attention decreases. We’re left awash in casseroles and baked goods, yet lack the appetite and energy required to pick up a fork.
Fortunately, there are certain foods that feed both mind and body, and can help to combat feelings of anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and even depression. With the help of our friends at Peace Meals, we’ve pulled together a few tips on finding foods that are chock-full of the kind of vitamins you need to add a spring to your step.
And don’t forget: nourishing ourselves is not just about what you eat, but whom you eat it with, and the care that went into making it.
So just as you’d pair the right fish with the right wine (see Wine Pairings), try pairing foods according to your mood. Go ahead: Eat, drink, and make thyself merry.
Have a glass of milk, or a fistful of kale. Calcium, the common ingredient in both, acts as a natural tranquilizer. Indeed, calcium deficiencies are common among people who are highly stressed. Supplement that with B vitamins, which help to maintain a healthy nervous system. Pay particular
heed to B1 (Thiamine), found in asparagus, spinach, green peas, and brussels sprouts, B5 (Pantothenic acid, known as the most potent anti- stress vitamin), found in mushrooms, cauliflower, sunflower seeds, and broccoli, and B6, found in leafy greens, tuna, bananas, poultry, and liver.
Constant tiredness can come with poor memory, difficulty concentrating, muscle aches, and loss of appetite, to name but a few symptoms. Try adding more iron to your diet, which combats anemia. You can find it in animal proteins, like red meats, oysters, clams, and poultry, as well as quinoa, dried figs, prunes, chard, spinach, thyme, and turmeric. Also recommended: lean proteins, found in lentils, nuts, red meats, fish, and beans, & Vitamin C, which is necessary for iron absorption, and may increase energy as well. Swig a glass of OJ, and take a bite (or several) of broccoli, bell peppers, kale, strawberries and raspberries, citrus fruits, mustard and turnip greens, fennel, or parsley. And there’s more: choline, an amino acid which increases acetylcholine in the body—which in turn strengthens brain cells—can be found in egg yolks, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, cauliflower, flax seeds, lentils, and oats. Lecithin, found in liver, kidneys, egg yolks, and soy, is known to promote energy and enhance immunity, and malic acid, found in pineapples, apples, cherries, lemons, and raspberries, can aid energy production in cells, including muscle cells. It’s also key for sugar metabolism. Last but not least, Vitamin B12 (found in red meats, sardines, snapper, and almonds) is a natural energy booster: pair it with B6, which helps its absorption.
While eating the right foods alone won’t cure clinical depression, they can help to lift one’s mood. Essential fatty acids—including the Omega-3s found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and nuts, and the alpha- linolenic acid found in dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, soybean oil, canola oil, and flaxseeds—affect the transmission of nerve impulses needed for normal brain function. Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps synthesize serotonin, a “feel- good” neurochemical shown to reduce anxiety and depression. You’ll find it in turkey, red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soy products, tuna, and shellfish. Proteins found in beans, fish, beef, poultry, dairy and soy products contain tyrosine, another amino acid, which stimulates dopamine and norepinephrine. Both may boost energy and mental clarity. Folate
and folic acid aid in red blood cell development and circulation, as well as normal neurological function, and may help to prevent depression and irritability. Score it via egg yolks, legumes, lentils, dark green veggies, asparagus, parsley, cauliflower, and beets. Finally, take yourself out for
a stroll: the Vitamin D in sunlight helps in the absorption of calcium and stimulates the production
of cortisol, which can increase energy levels. And there are those B Vitamins again. (Things to avoid: gluten, which has been linked to depressive disorders in those who don’t tolerate the protein, aspartame, which may block the formation of serotonin, refined sugars, alcohol, and caffeine.)
Chances are you could use more calcium and magnesium, which helps with calcium absorption. Magnesium can be found in leafy greens (especially swiss chard, spinach, mustard, kale, dandelion, arugula, & collards), summer squash, broccoli, black-eyed peas, kidney & lima beans, avocado, bananas, peanuts, and almonds. Potassium is a good one, as it’s essential for proper functioning of adrenal glands and muscles: find it in fennel, kale, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, winter squash, eggplant, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. And as with depression, tryptophan and folate/folic acid, aren’t a bad idea.
How are you feeding yourself?
RITUAL: WHEN GRIEF GETS PHYSICAL: Eat for the Mood You Want (Jill's Story)
RECIPE: Magic Mineral Broth & Carrot Ginger Soup