Food is a necessary part of life, growth, healing and even comfort. Food fuels our bodies and can impact everything from physical health to mental wellness.   In order to ensure that food’s impact is positive, making the right food choices is important. Below are a few healthy food choices that can have a positive impact on your wellness, even improving symptoms of depression and anxiety. Once you start experimenting with healthy ingredients, you may enjoy substituting healthy options into your favorite recipes.

  1. Whole grains

Whole grains are much better for you that other refined grains. They are more filling, so they give you healthy energy for longer, and keep you less hungry. Both of these benefits will help reduce anxiety. The Calm Clinic says, “Whole grain is rich in magnesium, and magnesium deficiency may lead to anxiety.” Some examples of this include: wild or brown rice, beans, whole-grain bread, whole grain pasta, oats (rolled or steel cut), soy, and quinoa. Even whole corn is now being considered a whole grain. According to the Whole Grains Council, this can include some brands of popcorn, corn muffins, and corn tortillas. Click here for more information regarding nutrients in corn. Wild rice cakes, popcorn, and oatmeal cookies are those foods, surprisingly, that contain these grains. A simple change to adding oats into cookies, is far better than eating a cookie with refined white flour. (Of course, eat those cookies in moderation!) The goal of finding nutritious recipes is to turn something tasty into something healthy. By doing this, your stomach will be satisfied and so will your mind.

Source: (http://wholegrainscouncil.org; http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/7-foods-that-fight-anxiety)

Recipes:

PB&J and Apple Oatmeal

Quinoa Coconut Macaroons

  1. Dark Chocolate

Yes, I said dark chocolate! While it may taste bitter without all of the additional milk and sugar of milk chocolate, when combined with other ingredients, you can still find it to be insanely delicious. Fit Day says, “Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.” Calm Clinic also says, “Chocolate reduces cortisol – the stress hormone that causes anxiety symptoms. There are also compounds inside dark chocolate that improve mood.” Dark chocolate is a option when you are craving something sweet and satisfying and it is beneficial for both anxiety and depression.

(Sources: http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/7-foods-that-fight-anxiety; http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/6-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate.html#b)

Recipes:

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Spiced Hot Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Power Bites

  1. Lean Proteins

Protein is important for building bone and muscle, it helps repair your tissues, and helps create enzymes and hormones. Lean proteins help stimulate nutrition and wellness with their amino acids. Proteins have the amino acid tryptophan, which can help boost your mood and reduce emotional irritability. Proteins also have the amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine can help relieve stress, promote tranquility, and works with serotonin in the brain to improve feelings of contentment. Some examples of lean proteins include: lean cuts of beef and pork, beans, nuts, eggs, soy foods, skinless, white meat chicken, and fish.

Source: (http://www.aboutdepressionfacts.com/the-nutrition-of-mental-health-infographic.html)

Recipes:

Curry Chicken Salad

Tofu “Chicken Nuggets” with Sriracha Dipping Sauce

Meat Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Remember to substitute brown rice for white rice in this)

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods

While there are bad fats, there are also goods fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Foods that are high in omega-3 have an effect on the production of neurotransmitters, which are key contributors to moods by fostering the release of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Omega-3 rich foods can help boost our happiness. This is very important for our nutrition and wellness because the body does not produce omega-3 on it’s own, so it is important to include omega-3 rich foods in our diet. There is the option of taking omega-3 fish oil supplements; however, it is better to get your vitamins and minerals naturally from foods, rather than from supplements. Some examples of omega-3 rich foods include: trout, anchovies, salmon, tuna, and walnuts.

Sources: (http://www.aboutdepressionfacts.com/the-nutrition-of-mental-health-infographic.html; https://www.ascentahealth.com/omega-3-and-you/the-science/omega-3-sport-fish-oil-beneficial-athletes/; http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/supplements/art-20044894)

Recipes:

Salmon Burgers (Don’t forget to get a whole grain bun)

Avocado Edamame Potstickers

Blackened Fish Tacos

  1. Water!

While it is important to eat right, many people mistake thirst for hunger. The simplest and most accessible way to help with nutrition and wellness is by drinking water. According to BetterVitamin.com, “Water is the quickest way to relieve anxiety. Water is responsible for the transfer of hormones, chemical messengers, and nutrients that help keep our bodies in balance and our organs healthy.” In addition, those who are dehydrated will also notice a difference in their emotions. Water is the key to nutrition and wellness.

Source: (http://bettervitamin.com/best-anxiety-foods/)

Click here for ten homemade vitamin fruit waters and more information regarding them.

For more recipes and nutrition articles please visit my Pinterest Nutrition and Wellness board (Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC).

Click here for more information on Anxiety Treatment.