Nutrition and Mental Health

We always hear “you are what you eat” and that we should eat healthy. Nutrition is a pillar of prevention and now there is evidence that exists that suggests diet is just as important to mental health as it is to physical health. A healthy diet is protective, and an unhealthy diet is unprotective and your brain functions best when getting premium fuel, or foods.

We talked with Kimsey Self, MNT, PhD candidate and founder of Progressive Health and Wellness on Facebook Live about foods that are good and bad for our brains and mental health. First, she explained the importance of the gut-brain connection, “These two organs actually share a lot of similarities and are in constant communication with each other, so one always impacts the other and vice versa.”

She also said eating high quality, less processed foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourish the brain. Eating things like fresh fruits and vegetables and making sure to eat good fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated from foods like salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts.

You can cause damage to your brain if you eat foods that aren’t as good for you. Foods that are high in bad fats – saturated or trans fats – which are found in more processed foods like packaged snacks, margarine, and fried foods. Foods that contain refined sugar and gluten can be harmful to our brain as well.

These foods ignite the immune responses in both the brain and the gut, “Our nerve cells get caught in the crossfire and when our nerve cells are injured, damaged, or killed, then we can manifest psychiatric conditions,” Kimsey explained.

9Health recently launched two free online mental health screeners. Click below to take the confidential screeners today:

Anxiety Screening

Depression Screening

You can also get a free nutrition screening and stress/mental health screening at a 9Health Fair.

Kimsey also shared this yummy, grain-free granola recipe that’s good for your brain:

Paleo Granola

Prep time: 10 mins               Cook time: 20 mins    
Inactive: 20 mins                  Servings: 6

– 1 cup raw almonds
– 1 cup raw cashews
– 1/4 cup raw pepitas/pumpkin seeds
– 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (no shell)
– 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1 tsp. sea salt
-Cinnamon to taste

– Food processor or blender
– Medium sized mixing bowl
– Stirring spoon
– Parchment paper
– Baking sheet

1. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place the almonds, cashews and coconut flakes in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to break into smaller chunks.
2. Microwave the coconut oil and vanilla extract together in a medium sized mixing bowl for about 30-45 seconds. Add the seeds, nuts and coconut flakes and stir to coat.
3. Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt, pressing the mixture together to form a flat surface
4. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes or until hardened, and then break into chunks and enjoy.