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How to become mentally healthy with food #WMHD14 #MondayBlogs

4th-world-mental-health-dayAs I mentioned in this weekend’s post, Friday 10th October 2014 is designated World Mental Health Day. What I did not mention was this week mental health awareness will be the focus for many centers around the world. Make sure you follow the hashtag #WMHD14 and #WorldMentalHealthDay on Twitter, FB, Google+ and Pinterest. Instead of all book related things and in some case, even in a book related post I will be mentioning something we all can do to help ourselves and our friends and family.

How to become mentally healthy with food #WMHD14 #MondayBlogs

Sometimes it is just an emoticon that can make me get past something that is going on and sometimes I need to eat my way through things, and not in an unhealthy way. Curious? Well read on.


Since the launch of Obama Care many of us with insurance have been dropped, have our deductible at least doubled (ours was quadrupled), or has had it cost so much to even get a check up we’re caught in a form of catch-22. It is enough to depress anyone and for those of us who are already depressed or suffering from any mental disability/illness/condition, it can cause it to become worse. I know I am having even more problems and not just in the physical health care arena but the mental health care.

Now before you start yelling at me in the comments, I do realize this is because the new laws require no one be denied insurance  and it negated the pre-existing conditions (in fact read your new tax fees which you will be fined with in 2014 and up even more in 2015). I have been tempted to drop our insurance through his company and get Obama Care truthfully. Right now we cannot afford anything and I need constant medical care.

Open face white albacore tuna using greek yogurt instead of mayo.

Open face white albacore tuna using greek yogurt instead of mayo.

Since being diagnosed with severe PTSD and bipolar disorder, I try my damnedest to eat my way through things because I am still being treated by my GP for my bipolar issues. I have been on one list or another for psych docs but they are moving from AK because the cost of living is so high and they are not getting paid what they used too. By the way, eating my way through as in making sure I eat for my mental health, and no that is not Ho-Ho’s and BLT’s.

…STOP laughing, that only happens occasionally!

Before I was forced to go back on the meds (long story for another day), I maintained it all with my diet, proper sleep, cutting back on all caffeine and any processed food. In fact I get sick with many processed food now because I am so hyper sensitive to the chemicals used to process since cutting them out. It is actually really easy and even if you do not suffer from any diagnosed disorder eating for your mental health is still something we all should do. In fact, the changes are so easy and I bet if you guys take me up on the challenge I am going to post you will be able to see a difference within a month (sooner truthfully but let’s give it thirty days)!

I am constantly looking up and researching food ideas for healthy living. Sure I throw in the occasional bacon or chocolate related search and tend to pin very unhealthy but comforting food on Pinterest but who doesn’t these days. Oh come on, you know you are just as much of a pinning whore as I am, admit it! I came across an article last year that listed these five important food groups we should include in our diet. It not only boosts our brain power, and not in the way you think of but through your belly. Don’t forget brain development for babies is directly related to a diet high in fat. It only makes sense it works for adults and help all things involving your neurological state by eating properly for that mental illness (or just over stressed and worked brains).

food-and-the-brainDid you know your gut has its own nervous system? It sends information to your brain from your vagus nerve. Ever wonder why you feel sick when you are nervous or stressed? (Something most of us with a mental illness deal with daily). Well just like the brain impacts that rumbly tummy or irritable bowel, what we put into our stomachs can impact just how well or poorly our brain functions.

Throughout the week I am going to be posting recipes relating to these five power foods and talking about each. Though this is a long post, I will be referencing it throughout the week so keep it bookmarked. Before I give you the five foods which keep us at the top of our game brain wise, I’m going to issue you a challenge. I challenge you to start thinking about a date between now and December 1st to start this. For thirty days I challenge you to change your diet, just for a month. Not to lose weight or get into your prom dress, but to help you stop freaking out and being depressed about that weight and just how you will make it to the prom without an anxiety attack! Just keep that in mind and before the end of the week I will give you all the info on how to join. For now? Do your own research and find out what you can. This is not an expensive diet. Believe me, we are broke most of the time. When it gets really bad and we are forced to buy crappy food? I end up going downhill, bad enough Geoff eats Ramen so I can eat what I need.

Let’s get to the foods before you are to bored and stop reading.

Here are five foods that keep the mind working at its best:

#1 Fatty Fish (Oily Fish)

seared-fishWe all have heard about omega-3 fatty acids. With all our fast and processed foods most American’s diets are in dire need for a boost. You can get a supplement but truthfully there is no better way than to add some of these great foods (such as that open faced sandwich above) to your diets. We also really need to curb our leaning towards all those foods which are higher in trans and saturated fats. Forget about your waistlines, foods like that Quarter-Pounder in your hand? And that (swallowing my pride) slices of bacon in that “salad”? Unless you are doing uncured bacon with no nitrates and you are limiting it, again.. yes bacon (like anything else) in large quantities is bad for you.  With our brains are made up largely with fat (remember … babies need 50-60% fat in their diet for brain development), and the fact our own bodies cannot no matter what kind of diet you are on create essential fatty acids, we have to eat foods rich in omega-3s. Since our brains are made up largely of fat and our bodies cannot manufacture essential fatty acids, we have to rely on a diet rich in omega-3s to meet our daily needs.

The best part about this for those of us with mental health illnesses, Studies have shown foods high in omega-3 fatty acids show a reduction in symptoms of mental disorders, especially with depression, ADHD related disorders and even schizophrenia. Who knew one of those to go cups of tuna you could have for lunch instead of that burger (change your order now) could do this? You see, those lovely omega-3s effect the production of neurotransmitters (the lovely brain chemistry which is responsible for those crazy moods we have), including dopamine and serotonin. <<– Because of this it also helps boost learning and memory.

tuna-rollsSome of these foods include wild cold water fish; salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, chicken fed on walnuts and flaxseed and even seaweed (hello tuna rolls!). My chicken whisperer does this so all my chicken products are healthier than the hormone laden ones at the store).

#2 Whole Grains

whole-grain-foodsAny diabetic will tell you this one: The primary source for energy for your brain is glucose, which as most of you know comes from carbs. Complex carbs to be exact. Simple carbohydrates compound and aggravate low moods by causing spikes in your blood sugar. They also have been proven to affect the brain similarly to drug abuse. Take complex carbs which by the nature of their name take the body longer to break down and therefore glucose is released slowly, much like an insulin pump for many diabetics does. They provide a stead source of fuel needed for both brain and body. I did simple things like switching to all whole-wheat products, eating oatmeal three times a week, eating wild and brown rice, beans and though I do avoid a lot of soy because sometimes to much is not good for certain people with bipolarism, I still drink my Silk weekly. I add barely to my homemade soups and we eat lots of beans in this house. Pretty simple and no, it is not expensive!

#3 Lean Protein

lean-steakAs mentioned above, food is broken down to substances which your neurotransmitters and other chemicals in the nervous system to help everything in your body be on the same page and communicate efficaciously with each other and the rest of your body. Protein, and in this case lean protein, is one of the most abundant substances in the body, next to those lovely carbs. Tryptophan is a building block of protein (e.g. Turkey) and influences that mood too by helping produce serotonin.

Serotonin is the key element associated with depression. All those lovely sources including your fish (two birds with one stone in that sandwich!), the turkey you are preparing for thanksgiving, chicken, eggs and again with those beans, they all help keep your serotonin levels balanced. That bread on the sandwich? The complex carbohydrates in actually help the entry of the tryptophan into the brain which in turn will reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety and overall will improve your actual cognitive functioning.

#4 Leafy Greens

The-Nutritional-Value-of-SpinachI don’t know about you, but I have always been a spinach lover. Popeye’s creators were spot on when they paired the corncob pipe smoking man with a can of spinach. All the leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, kale, and broccoli are all foods high in folic acid. Turnips, beets, lentils (yummy),  mustard greens (yep not my favorites either but I am gathering recipes and have had made some fun foods with them in the mix). Deficiencies in folic acid and Vit Bs are directly linked to a higher rate of depression, fatigue and insomnia. Believe me, I have a serious B12 deficiency and need this more than anything. Since bumping up my intake I no longer have to get B12 shots monthly. Another tip, you can use B12 vits during your period or when you are feeling down for an instant pick-me up, or you can just eat a big ol’ bowl of spinach!

I will say one warning here, if you have blood clotting problems PLEASE do not eat heavy amounts without talking to your doctor. My mother has a horrific issue and she cannot eat dark leafy greens and she no longer can have a gin martini for the same reasons.

Next time you are at a luncheon and you see the veggie tray, grab some broccoli. This lovely mini-tree contains selenium which is the trace mineral playing a huge and important role in your immune system. It keeps it running, helps reproduction (both men and women), and your thyroid hormone metabolism. For me this was the key to have me buying a head each time we go for our main shopping. Some studies suggest low levels are a contributing factor to depression, anxiety and fatigue. You can get it also from chicken, onions, seafood, walnuts, brazil nuts and whole grain products.

Interesting tidbit: did you know if you are pre-mature graying you are already deficient in selenium. Stress can reduce this too… just look at Obama, speaking Obama Care!

#5 Yogurt with Active Cultures

yogurtAs I mentioned above in the caption of my photo, I substitute Greek yogurt for my mayo in many dishes. Yogurt  with active cultures, kefir, kimchi, tempeh (vegetarians eat your hearts and heads out!) and certain pickled vegetables contain probiotics. Studies have shown probiotics reduce anxiety and stress hormones and effect GABA, (the neurotransmitter, gamma-Aminobutyric acid). Those pesky and quick processed meals you grab on break will actually cause the balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria in your belly. Sound like a good reason I get sick when I try to eat any processed foods now? Oh and these little single shooters? You can make your own yogurt So easy and set these up for a morning shooter that won’t get you arrested for drinking and driving!

All of you on the diets emulating cavemen (Atkins) have some of it right, but our modern diet is so much different because of what we have available. People are moving faster and faster, efficiency is the key and so food manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and created processed convenience foods. Honestly if all you do for the challenge is add fruits and veggies, real ones people, and limit the intake of those evil but easy processed foods and start cooking meals instead of running for a quick burrito from the convenience store (see what I did there?), we would have not only have a happier and healthier brain and body but our wallets, trash bins and lives will be simplified… and happier and so will our children and theirs. What we eat also affects our future generations. So perhaps the caveman did not have the resources or corner stores we have, but he did not pass on the bad genetic markers we are passing on to our children and theirs because of our own obsession with bacon double cheeseburgers.


Tomorrow I have a book post but I will be posting a second post mid-afternoon and will share a couple of other things plus hopefully the new site will be launched and more challenge info updated. Till then think about this today. Nutrition is not only a factor but a KEY FACTOR AND CONTRIBUTOR TO GOOD MENTAL HEALTH. It is only one piece of the equation though. Changing what you eat won’t be enough for many and though I did and many of you do substitute it for other forms of treatment do NOT GO OFF YOUR MEDS and buy a bulk of spinach and a couple of grain fed chicken carcasses. If you have not been diagnosed or seen anyone for your depression or any other symptoms of mental health disorders, go now and see your family doctor!

Do any of you have any tips? What about recipes? I would love the chance to share them so please comment or send me an email at kriss(at)


  1. This is all brilliant info, Kriss. I’m already doing a lot of it, but it’s so easy to slip back into the habit of using convenience foods and buying fast food instead of cooking from scratch. Kudos to you! Looking forward to seeing the details of the challenge!

    • Thanks! Not sure if you saw but I created a Facebook page!

      • I did, and I’m pretty sure I’m following it now. 🙂

  2. Thank you for a great, informational post! This is all wonderful stuff to know. Unfortunately, I’m on dialysis, and a dialysis diet, or a renal diet, does not encourage whole grains (among several other otherwise-healthy things) because of the high potassium and/or phosphorus content. Renal patients like me have to be VERY careful with our potassium and phosphorus intake, since it can build up very quickly when our kidneys no longer regulate the levels in our bloodstream, and the dialysis machines can’t remove very much of either of those nutrients.
    However, fish, we can do. Lots of fish! And some fruits, and some vegetables, if not any old kind we want.
    Funnily enough, dialysis patients on renal diets are THOUSANDS of times more likely to develop depression and/or anxiety than the rest of the population. Hmmmm. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

    • It certainly does!! I bet you can make up for some of those missing things with supplements. When my grandfather was on dialysis my grams had to get creative when they said NO WHOLE GRAINS! He was getting so down and she always said she cooked to make people happy and to STAY happy and now that I have her cookbooks and recipe files I know she was doing this! Glad you posted this! I don’t want folks to just DIVE in and do what they feel like they seriously have to be careful.

  3. I’ve been saying at home that we need to eat better. I am not the one that cooks so its hard to have the control over what is made but I may have to start cooking for myself and the rest of the family if they want to eat what I’m making. I just know that I need to eat healthier.

  4. I’m right there with you! My diet is a bit different but to cure anxiety, allergies, muscle pain, and a host of other things I needed to go on a sulfur free diet. A lot of it is the same, but I’m also dairy & egg free. Those processed foods will get you every time though. They’re just not good for anyone!

    • I find it so interesting when you realize the amount of folks who have severe depression or things like bipolar disorders which actually maybe caused by or aggravated by physical issues. Now I am very very curious about the sulfur free diet.. Hmmmmmm

  5. Hi Kris, I came across this thanks to Martina McGowan. At Ipnotica (my very small start-up company), we’ve been creating some healthy recipes for truly feel good food. Speaking of leafy greens, one of my all time favorite dishes is this Swiss Chard casserole:

    Also, if you’re not following her already, Dr Doni Wilson (@glutenfreedoc on Twitter) talks a lot about foot and mental link. Have a great day!

    • Thank you SO MUCH!!!


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