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I love the thought of being able to eat away my problems. Don’t we all? The idea of chowing down on a bowl of double chocolate ice cream as therapy is perhaps the most appealing description of healing I have ever heard. And although several scoops of ice cream (preferably with hot fudge!) might not be exactly what the doctor ordered, it is true that the right types of food can give your brain the power to naturally and safely regulate your mood, reduce anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your focus, and strengthen your motivation.
A growing body of research indicates that there just might be a scientific basis behind the phrase, “You are what you eat.” Instead of literally turning into a potato chip or a tuna sandwich, however, your body incorporates the nutrients and energy of the foods you eat and uses them to build your brain and power your cognitive processes. Framed in this way, it is a bit easier to understand how eating vegetables and lean proteins might be better building material for your noggin than eating cakes and French fries (however delicious they may be).
Although “food therapy” is not sufficient treatment for most people struggling with depression, anxiety, or PTSD, it can be an integral part of a healthy, healing lifestyle. When coupled with exercise, counseling, medication, or alternative therapies, eating to beat PTSD symptoms can be an empowering way to regularly give your brain the best chance at healing itself – and in doing so, the best chance at healing you.
The Power of Great Foods
The key ingredients for improving mood regulation and mental function include complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. Although these can be found in many foods, you will typically get the best form and concentration of these nutrients through unprocessed, whole foods prepared with minimal additions of fat, sugar, or salt. Here are a few of the top performers for reducing anxiety, regulating mood, and boosting stress management:
Salmon. Not only do the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids give your brain the material it needs to communicate among cells, it also can help boost mood and memory. The fatty acids, which can be found in other fatty fish as well as nuts and vegetable oils, and B12 in salmon have also been shown to alleviate mild depression and trigger your brain to release hormones that can reduce aggressive behavior.
Walnuts, which combine healthy fatty acids and magnesium, help reduce irritability, frustration, depression, mood swings, and sleep difficulties.
Katie is a Certified Health Education Specialist chipping away at her PhD in Health Services Management and Policy. She is also certified in Mental Health First Aid and loves helping people find healing through alternative treatments and natural therapies. She enjoys spending her free time writing about health and nutrition and searching for new ways to incorporate chocolate into her daily diet.
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