How the Standard American Diet is Making Us Depressed, Anxious, and Inflamed

It's easy to overlook the connection between what we eat and how we feel, but in a country where more than 1 in 5 adults are battling mental illness, suicide is on the rise, especially in children, and drug overdoses are at an all-time high, we need to stop and ask why? Why are we witnessing such unprecedented rates of mental illness? The answer lies not only in our modern-day, high-paced, stressful environment but at the end of our forks. In this episode of my Health Bites series, I discuss why our brains are so broken, the root causes driving neuroinflammation, and how this drives disconnection between our prefrontal cortex (the adult in the room) and amygdala (our reactive, child-like brain), causing our anxiety and emotions to take over. We’ll also discuss the research clearly showing how our toxic SAD is a key driver of our mental health crisis and how you can eat (and supplement) your way out of many mental health issues.

What to Eat to Beat Depression and Mental Health Issues: 

  • Whole foods, nutrient-dense diet
  • Balance blood sugar:
    • Incorporate protein and healthy fats in every meal
      • A mixture of high-quality animal and plant protein
    • Keep carbs to fruits, vegetables, legumes (whole food sources)
    • Eliminate ultra-processed foods containing refined white flour and sugar (bread, cereals: cornflakes, Frosted Flakes, puffed wheat, granola), durum wheat-based pastas, bagels, and pastries
    • All foods containing high-fructose corn syrup
    • All artificial sweeteners (aspartame, Sorbitol, etc.) and caffeine
    • Processed fruit juices, which are often loaded with sugars
  • Protein: amino acids are the building blocks of our hormones and neurotransmitters
    • Tryptophan (precursor to serotonin): pasture-raised turkey, chicken, eggs, almonds, and peanuts
    • Tyrosine (precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine): grass-fed, regeneratively raised beef, lamb, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and whole grains.
  • Brain and mood-supporting nutrients
    • Omega-3s: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, small halibut, sable
    • Monounsaturated fat: Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, olives
    • Choline: pastured egg yolks, liver, peanuts, cruciferous vegetables
    • Inositol: oranges, grapefruit, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, peanuts, leady greens, chicken liver
    • B vitamins:
      • B6 (wild-caught salmon, pasture-raised chicken, chickpeas)
      • Folate (dark leafy greens, spinach, kale, pasture-raised eggs)
      • B12 (animal protein)
      • Thiamine (pasture-raised pork
    • Vitamin D: mushrooms, sunshine
    • Magnesium: nuts seeds and beans
    • Zinc: pumpkin seeds, oysters
  • Antioxidants: vitamin C (kiwi, oranges, red bell peppers), vitamin E (almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, spinach), coQ10 (meat, chicken hearts), alpha-lipoic acid (spinach, broccoli, red meat)
  • Micronutrients: selenium (Brazil nuts, seafood), magnesium (spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado), zinc (oysters, grass-fed beef)
  • Prebiotic fiber: Jerusalem artichokes, cooked and cooled sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, chicory root, leeks, asparagus, bananas, apples, cocoa, flaxseeds, seaweed, lentils, beans
  • Probiotics: grass-fed goat or sheep yogurt and kefir, kimchi, tempeh, natto, sauerkraut

Polyphenols/Phytonutrients: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, green tea, apples, onions, kale, dark chocolate Decrease or eliminate your intake of:

  • All processed or junk foods
  • Foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (crackers, chips, cakes, candies, cookies, doughnuts, and processed cheese)
  • Industrial processed oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, and canola
  • Large predatory fish, which contain mercury and other pro-inflammatory toxins in unacceptable amounts, including swordfish, tuna, tilefish, and shark
  • Dairy — substitute unsweetened almond milk or hazelnut milk
  • Alcohol — limit consumption
Brain-supporting nutrients: Multivitamin and mineral with adequate zinc, B vitamins, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids, and magnesium to address widespread nutritional deficiencies or inadequate intake that are linked to mental illness.
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