In this day and age, bigger is always better, right? WRONG!!
Watching the food shows on TV where the host eats a 3 pound hamburger and a pound of fries just to get a T-shirt and a picture on the wall is crazy! And don’t forget the 1/2 pound burgers are becoming the norm. After all, who wants to eat a piddley kid size hamburger?
What people aren’t getting is, fast foods are greasy and full of calories. They can be loaded with chemicals that you don’t even know about. Just for fun, go to the store and grab a box of pizza rolls and read the ingredients. I did and it is AMAZING!! Can you believe we give this to our kids??? Creating food to last on shelves for weeks at a time are becoming a literal science project. The chemicals and hydrogenated oils in foods can and do lead to brain abnormalities causing stress, anxiety, depression and weight gain.
When you are stressed out, what is the first thing you reach for…comfort food, right? Who doesn’t want that donut or piece of cake in the office lounge for a pick me up? In the evening when you feel down and craving “feel good” food do you choose a meal of fried chicken with mac and cheese, or go out for that hamburger, fries and soda, or pizza and beer.
In reality, these foods are not going to help. They can make your anxiety worse and cause you to fall into depression. When you reach for sweets to “calm” yourself, what you are really doing is making your blood sugar rise, which in turn, causes the brain to go into overdrive, yes, it makes you feel good for an hour or so, but then you come crashing down, feeling tired and can cause a panic attack. The best thing to do is leave simple carbs alone. That means don’t go for sugary snacks like candy, donuts, cakes, sugary cereals, soda, and fruit juices. Try to eat more complex carbs that keeps your sugars on a level plain. Complex sugars would be whole grain cereals and breads or whole fruits like apples and bananas.
Ok, so, you don’t eat snack foods but like diet sodas or energy drinks. Diet sodas are full of artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners cannot be digested by the body. They can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. As for energy drinks and coffee, they are full of caffeine which can cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Caffeine can actually cause panic attacks and cause sleeplessness. Try to avoid energy drinks at all costs! If you are thirsty, stick to water. After all, we humans are 70% water!!
As for the fast food diet plan, the fries, onion rings, crispy chicken, fried fish and all that other good deep fat fried foods are cooked in hydrogenated oil. It’s not heart healthy and can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, not to mention weight gain. It can clog your arteries and narrow the blood flow to your brain, making you feel sluggish and depressed. Another thing with fast foods, they are loaded with sodium(salt). Too much salt in our diet has a negative effect on our brain. It causes fatigue and damages the immune system. Not to mention that eating an overload of salt leads to weight gain, high blood pressure and water retention. Too much salt can trigger panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
Alcohol will also cause depression. It’s true, one drink can make you feel calm and relaxed, but, drinking in excess will cause anxiety. Alcohol affects the body and nervous system and can cause hypersensitivity, increased heart rate, lowered blood sugar levels and dehydration.
Let’s talk about that big plate of mac and cheese that our mom’s would give us to “make us feel better.” Research does show that people who have anxiety say, they’ve noticed an increase in anxiety symptoms minutes after eating dairy products. Why is this? Dairy is an inflammatory. It can cause havoc on the digestive system. So, if you do suffer from anxiety or depression, when it comes to dealing with dairy, the answer might be no.
Last but not least, is that big meat lovers pizza you ordered. The pizza is full of processed meat! With all the chemicals in processed meats, it’s a full on war with your gut! Gut health is a major contributor to chronic anxiety. Not to mention that the crust is made of white flour and gluten, they are not your friends. Gluten can trigger anxiety symptoms, depression and mood disorders.
Now that I took away all the yummy foods, what can you eat to make you feel better? Lets start with a healthy diet consisting of dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale and swiss chard. Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammations. Severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. Not only do the greens contain vitamins such as A,C,E, and K, and minerals, they boost your immune system and have anticancer effects.
Next are the Omega-3 fatty acids. These support brain function and reduce depression symptoms. Foods rich in omega-3 are fish, such as, mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna, white fish, sardines and anchovies. Try adding fish to your diet a couple of times a week. Walnuts are another example. Not only are they full of Omega-3, they are packed with fiber and contain valuable amounts of copper, manganese and vitamin E. There are seeds like chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds. Believe it or not, egg yolks can be a good source of omega-3. Soybeans and navy beans are another favorite. They are also a good source of protein and fiber. If you eat rice, you might want to try wild rice. Wild rice is actually a grass, but, it is loaded with protein and fiber. It’s also high in B vitamins, manganese, zinc, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium.
Vitamin B12 is another important source for brain health. It plays a key role in converting nutrients to energy. If you feel exhausted or your mind feels foggy, then it’s time to get more vitamin B12. Foods sources for B12 are, fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy. It is also found in fortified cereals and soy or rice milk. An interesting fact, many people over the age of 50 that suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, suffer from problems like dementia. The result is that many people confuse the deficiency with dementia and are mistakenly diagnosed. What might be a surprise to you is that beef is one of the best sources of vitamin B12 and zinc which is important to brain health. Turkey is also a good source. Shellfish will give you the healthy B12 vitamin and also rich in potassium and iron.
Another important vitamin to help with depression, is vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is SUNSHINE! I know when I worked 12 hour shifts, it would be dark in the morning when I went to work and dark when I went home. Being stuck in a building all day, is no fun. If you can, get out and enjoy the day over your break times. It will give you the boost you need.
If you can’t get outside, you can also get vitamin D in fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon or fortified products such as dairy products orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. If you think you’re tired from all the stress at work or lack of sleep, it may be due to the lack of vitamin D. This is the vitamin you need for your body to create energy. You might just want to put down that high energy drink full of caffeine and grab a cup of sunshine.
What this all boils down to, stop eating processed foods high in chemicals and fats. Start eating a healthy diet rich in meats, greens, beans, seeds, and fruits. If you can’t pronounce the foods on the ingredient label, put the food down and walk away!!
With depression and obesity becoming an epidemic in this country, maybe it’s time we get back to basics.