When it comes to looking after anxiety & mental health, nutrition is key. So many times in clinic I speak to patients with chronic anxiety who are missing key nutrients in their diet.
I am a big advocate of smoothies to help jam in some nutrients into your diet. It just makes it a lot easier and it's a pretty yummy way to do your Naturopathic homework as it were :)
So I thought I'd share one of my easy mental health smoothies to help with anxiety & cognition. I can confirm with some certainty that they help as I am cool as a cucumber most of the time *slowly takes of sunglasses like the guy in CSI:Miami*
The key ingredients in my mental health smoothies are a good protein powder, Zinc, Magnesium, antioxidants and something to help the gut stay happy.
Protein - Alkaline Complete Protein Raw & Organic
Protein is made up of amino acids. Certain amino acids are vital in the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain messengers that regulate sleep, concentration and help to reduce feelings of anxiety. Without these amino acids we can't produce these brain chemicals that are important to healthy function. So keep your protein up!
I like to use Raw & Organic Alkaline Complete Protein. It's made from wholegrain brown rice & pea protein. This tends to be a more hypoallergenic (meaning a low chance of having an allergy to these ingredients). Whey protein is dairy based and I prefer to avoid too much dairy due to its mucus forming and hyper-allergenic nature (ingredient that has a high chance of causing allergy).
Zinc - Pepitas/Pumpkin Seeds
Zinc is a co-factor nutrient (co-factor nutrients are important to a particular process in the body - in this case Zinc is important to the process of creating a neurotransmitter) needed to create GABA and a bunch of other neurotransmitters. GABA is particularly important in the management of anxiety. This is the neurotransmitter that helps to keep you chilled in stressful situations and in day to day life.
Happily, Pepitas or pumpkin seeds (whatever you want to call them!) are a great source of Zinc. So into the smoothie they go!
Magnesium - Spinach & Wholegrains
So Magnesium is another super important co-factor for the production of neurotransmitters. Just like Zinc, certain neurotransmitters can't be created without it. Not only that but magnesium is a key nutrient in muscle conduction. It is responsible for endorsing relaxation in skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle is all the muscles you can control, like the muscles in your shoulders and back. It is super common for patients suffering with anxiety to experience extreme muscular tension. This is usually because:
1. The body is ripping through magnesium stores trying to keep up with the demand for magnesium in neurotransmitter production
2. The body is burning through magnesium stores in an effort to control muscle conduction and help them to relax
So people suffering with chronic anxiety have a much greater need for magnesium (and really all the nutrients I am listing in this article) because they use them up so much faster than someone who isn't fighting anxiety. So into the smoothie it goes!!
Antioxidants - Berries & Spinach
So antioxidants are pretty rad. They help fight oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. They also help to keep your little grey cells pumped and ready to go. They can help to inhibit premature aging and fraying of neurological tissue. The more we can have in our diets the better, as we are constantly exposed to carcinogens and toxins that create damage. So chuck it into your smoothie as well :D
Gut Love - Barberries & Yoghurt
Recent research has connected how much the health of the gut impacts mental health. Particularly the microflora, ie probiotics. These are the gut bugs that keep your digestion happy and strong. They also have a big influence over the health of the immune system.
Pathogenic bacterial, yeast and parasitic infections have all been connected with changes in cognitive function and stress response. By eating the right foods you can keep your microflora happy and healthy and help to impede pathogenic flora that may contribute to anxiety and poor cognition.
In my smoothie I popped coconut yogurt which is a probiotic source to help support the gut flora and also Barberry. Barberries are my latest thing. They are a relatively tart flavored berry, but I like a bit of tart now and then ;) I use Barberry tincture in my naturopathic treatment to support the health of good microflora/probiotics. Barberries also happen to be great at supporting the production of bile and gastric acid to help with digestion. 'Cos you won't be absorbing all these wonderful nutrients if your digestion is crap. So chuck them in as well :) !!!
So this is an easy smoothie mix with ingredients you can pretty much grab from any fruit & veg and/or health food store. Mix it all together with your favourite seed milk (i use Soy but you can pop almond milk, rice milk or even cows milk in if you tolerate it well). Wizz it up and enjoy. Popping it all together is a low stress way to ensure you are consuming the right nutrients to support mental health :)
<3 naturaljaz xx
Jaz is a Naturopath, Pathology Testing Adviser and educator. She practice as a Naturopath in Melbourne, Australia and via skype worldwide. She teaches fellow practitioners on pathology testing and educates pracs and the public on the bridge between Naturopathic care Biomedicine.