Hello whole foodies!
By TONI CHER GERDELAN 11/02/16
As a nutritionist, foods that enhance happiness & well-being are something that get me very excited! After all food is medicine, or the poison that can make you really sick. And if we can use food in a positive and nourishing way, not only to fuel our bodies, but to make us feel really, really good, well why not??? As I sit here at 3 pm on a week day, a challenging time of day for many of us at the best of times, I’m sipping on some kombucha and nibbling on a couple of activated brazil nuts…I know I’m an absolute whole food tragic, but hey that’s how I roll. And you’ll find out why…
I haven’t always been this way.
In the past I have flirted with mild to moderate depression. And yes I was diagnosed as such. And yes I have taken anti-depressants…twice. For maybe a year each time, the last time being about ten years ago. So whilst I choose not to medicate these days, and I’m feeling very grateful that I don’t need to, I am certainly not here to judge anybody who needs to go down this route* Depression is a very serious illness and needs to be treated as such, please do not interpret anything I write here as a minimisation regarding those who suffer from depression. If you feel this may be you, please reach out to someone, preferably a doctor. I am simply showing you how to elevate your mood & biochemistry with the magic of whole foods…
Although depression is complex, and can have many causes, there is a definite link between diet and mental health** My two known/diagnosed bouts of depression where long before I ate a whole food rich diet. I understand there was also a genetic component to my illness, but eating a poor diet can really exacerbate that. So now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get onto the fun part!
My favourite happy foods!!!
Think of me as your local neighbourhood dealer…your BLISS dealer. These foods are the best way I know how to get legally high. Please eat responsibly (;
Ok chocolate. But not just any old supermarket, crap filled, processed chocolate bar. The real stuff. Raw cacao. Not so hard to come by these days. You can find it from powdered to cacao nibs to raw chocolate treats in your local health food shop.
♥ It’s choc o’ block full of the mineral magnesium, which plays a major role in serotonin production.
♥ It contains the “bliss molecule” anandamide, a known mood improver, that induces an albeit mild, but very real, state of euphoria.
♥ Cacao contains a mild natural stimulant called theobromine. Many people think cacao contains caffeine. It doesn’t. it contains theobromine, which is a caffeine-like substance, that doesn’t have such a profound effect on your nervous system as caffeine. Some people, however, do find it best not to eat cacao later in the day.
♥ It also contains phenylethylamine, a compound that stimulates dopamine production. And we all know dopamine is dope when it comes to feeling all things to do with LURVE.
♥ It just tastes so damn FINE.
♥ These smile shaped wonder fruits are high in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin = HAPPY.
♥ A combination of B vitamins and magnesium equals stress relief.
♥ Bananas are rich in potassium. Low levels of potassium can cause mental lethargy, depression and mood swings. Nuff said.
3. GOJI BERRIES
♥ The goji berry is also known as the “happy berry” in it’s native countries.
♥ A long-documented traditional property of this antioxidant-packed berry is that it enhances one’s complexion. Looking gorgeous always makes us happy.
♥ In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) goji berries have long been considered a treatment for depression & anxiety by enhancing mood and wellbeing, thanks to being rich in minerals and amino acids.
4. BRAZIL NUTS
Be sure to choose raw or activated for the most benefits.
♥ These jumbo nuts are a rich source of selenium. Selenium along with being a major antioxidant, is known for mood elevation and reduced anxiety. Being deficient in this powerful micronutrient can make one far more susceptible to depression, anxiety and fatigue.
♥ They are really yummy. Not a fan? Try buying some activated ones (or doing it yourself)…even yummier.
5. CHIA SEEDS
♥ These little power bombs are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are thought to reduce depressive symptoms and impulsive behaviour plus increase focus, amongst its many, many benefits.
♥ They are high in calcium, which may help alleviate PMS-related depression ladies (:
♥ A good source of magnesium, a mineral that we can’t get enough to regulate our emotions.
♥ Zinc deficiency has been linked to depression and anorexia nervosa. Zinc is vital for a happy brain, good gut function which also includes your immune system!
♥ Cashews are rich in vitamin E, which has been linked to a reduction of PMS & menopausal symptoms.
♥ Cashews are also rich in tryptophan, which makes them valuable as a natural antidepressant; there is some indication that 2 handfuls may be considered a therapeutic amount…
HELLO RAW DESSERTS!
7. FERMENTED FOODS
This includes kombucha, kefir, fermented veggies (such as kimchi or sauerkraut), tempeh, miso, coconut yoghurt plus I recommend taking a good quality probiotic capsule as well.
♥ Fermented thus probiotic-rich foods are seriously good for populating your gut/digestive tract with good bacteria. Your gut is also known as your second brain…ever heard the term “gut feeling” used???
♥ Over 90% of the body’s total serotonin is produced in the gut. And a healthier gut equates to increased serotonin production. As touched on before, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences mood, appetite, pain tolerance and anxiety.
♥ Fermented foods are rich in B vitamins which nourish and support your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands play a major role in your stress response, and we all know that when we are stressed out, we are NOT happy. Irritability, depression, fatigue, anxiety & mood swings can all be symptoms of being deficient in these “happy” vitamins.
8. MATCHA TEA
♥ Matcha tea contains a substance called l-theanine, which induces a state the Buddhists monks refer to as “relaxed alertness”. Matcha does contain caffeine, though less than coffee; it has a half life of approximately 6 hours, so there isn’t a short-lived high (and ensuing crash) as we experience with coffee.
♥ Drinking such a gorgeous frothy bright green beverage just makes me happy…how can something so vibrant not be good for you and soothing for your soul? After all, we also eat with our eyes (:
9. HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES
Quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, beetroot, pumpkin and fruit as opposed to grains containing gluten plus refined sugars.
♥ A low carb diet can be quite stressful on your adrenal glands. Cortisol production has been found to increase in response to depriving yourself of carbohydrates. This is chiefly because our body’s (and brain’s) preferred source of fuel is glucose which comes from carbohydrates; if we don’t have enough glucose, our bodies will make it via a process called gluconeogenesis, which requires increased cortisol production. Phew! To cut a long (and science nerdy) story short, EAT your carbs, but choose them wisely…
10. SUNSHINE (Vitamin D)
♥ Whilst there is a strong link between vitamin D and our immune systems, there is now evidence to suggest that some (responsible) time spent in the sun also contributes to wellbeing and lowered symptoms of depression. Our serotonin levels are actually higher on sunny days, which makes total sense when you recall how you feel after a few back to back rainy, overcast days. Please be sure to use a good natural sunscreen when outdoors, as our precious skin absorbs all those chemicals that are part of most commercial sunscreens.
Please feel free to add any of your feel good foods below.
*Note: if you are currently on antidepressants please do not even consider stopping the usage of them without first speaking with your doctor. There are potential problems linked with ceasing the use of this type of medication that your doctor can help you manage.
**Plataforma SINC. (2012, March 30). Link between fast food and depression confirmed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 8, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330081352.htm