The Brain Friendly Diet

You've made the decision to seek out counselling to work on that issue that you're facing in your life.  As you sit down in my office, you notice that I ask you questions about a range of things.  One of them is how often you consume alcohol and then another related question is how much you smoke or use recreational drugs.  A couple of other important questions I'll ask are what your diet is like and how you have been sleeping. 

These questions are important for me as a counsellor to know because quite often when you are dealing with emotional struggles, it affects other areas of your life as well.  Food - what you eat and how much you eat - is one of the things that I pay attention to the most.

Have you noticed that your appetite changes when you are stressed?  Or maybe you start eating a lot of junk food after you've been with your extended family for a while.  It is important to not only notice how your eating habits might change but then also to consider what foods can help you cope with the things that life is throwing at you.

Glenys Bowers, RHN shares what kinds of food can help to keep your brain in good working order and to help prevent mental health issues from occurring.  

Following an optimal diet and taking daily supplements is a good starting point.  Being consistent with this regime can increase your mental energy, improve your mood and sharpen your mind.  The brain uses about one third of all nutrients taken in from food so try following these 10 golden rules to maximize your mental health:

  1. Eat whole foods like whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables.  Avoid refined, white and overcooked foods.
  2. Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  Choose dark, green leafy and root vegetables such as watercress, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green beans, or peppers, raw or lightly cooked.  Choose fresh fruit such as apples, pears, berries, melon or citrus fruits. 
  3. Eat 2-4 servings per day of whole grains such as brown basmati rice, millet, rye, oats, whole wheat, corn or quinoa as cereal, breads and pasta.
  4. Try to avoid any form of sugar and foods added with sugar.
  5. Combine protein foods with carbohydrate foods by eating cereals and fruit with nuts or seeds and ensuring you eat starch foods (potato, bread, pasta, rice) with fish, lentils, beans or tofu.
  6. Eat coldwater fish like herring, mackerel, wild salmon or fresh sardines two or three times a week to provide a good source of omega-3 fats, or good vegetable protein sources, including beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu and seed vegetables such as corn.  If eating animal protein, choose lean meat, organic whenever possible.
  7. Eat eggs, preferably free-range, organic and high in omega-3s.
  8. Eat seeds and nuts.  The best seeds are flax, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame.  Try grinding them up and sprinkling on cereal, soups and salads.
  9. Use cold-pressed oils like flaxseed, hemp and olive for salad dressings or drizzling on vegetables.
  10. Minimize your intake of fried and processed food and saturated fat from meat and dairy products.

In addition to following the brain friendly diet, include a high-quality multivitamin and mineral that gives you good amounts of all the B vitamins, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Not a fan of fish? Supplement with a fish oil for your omega-3 fats and borage or evening primrose oil for omega-6 fats. As well, add a tablespoon of lecithin granules to your cereal every day to improve cognitive function.

If you have noticed a change in your diet and you think it might be related to something going on in your life that you would like to get help with, use the button below to contact me and book an appointment.

If you have questions about the dietary suggestions in this article, Glenys Bowers, R.H.N. can be reached at geebowers@gmail.com or 604.375.9471

Resources – New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, by Patrick Holfor