Food as medicine – To support our mental health
Oats – or avena in Latin – has been long-used in tincture form for chronic (long-term) anxiety support. You get the same benefit from eating old-fashioned, whole grain (organic, if possible) or steel cut oats. No quick-oats, as they are highly processed and low in fiber.
Consider adopting some into your diet every day. An easy meal prep idea to take them on-the-go is “overnight oats.” For recipe details, visit Protein Overnight Oats 3-Ways.
Green tea is high in antioxidants but also in L-theanine, which increases dopamine and serotonin in the brain. It also promotes relaxation by inducing alpha brain waves, which induce feelings of calm, increased creativity and enhance your ability to absorb new information.
Consider sipping green tea throughout the day.
While chamomile tea may be best known as a bedtime tea, its botanical medicine properties that help with sleep induction are its ability to act as an anxiolytic and reduce anxiety. Specifically, its flavonoid "apigenin" binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.
Many people are familiar with the Rx medications in the class referred to as benzodiazepines. Chamomile naturally lowers anxiety via the same receptors. Thus, if there is a certain time of the day you are prone to feel more stressed or anxious, consider sipping a warm – or cold, poured over ice – cup of chamomile tea.
Chamomile also has other health benefits, including immune support (fewer colds) and reduced systolic blood pressure (likely attributed to the anxiolytic effect).
In relation to mental health, reducing neuroinflammation is the goal when opting to reach for more anti-inflammatory foods. Overall body inflammation causes feelings of fatigue and malaise (lack of well-being), while neuroinflammation specifically can cause fatigue, brain fog, forgetfulness, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Add more of these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet:
Tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards), nuts (almonds, walnuts), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines) and fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges).
An example of a well-known anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean Diet.
Avoid these inflammatory foods:
Refined carbohydrates (white bread and pastries), French fries (and other fried foods, as they are fried in omega-6 seed oils which are inflammatory), soda (and other sugar-sweetened beverages), red meats (burgers, steaks), processed meats (hot dogs, sausage) and margarine (and shortening, lard).
For more information regarding anti-inflammatory foods as well as inflammatory foods to avoid, read Staying Healthy: Foods That Fight Inflammation.