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Simply Nutritious

Eating for mental health does not need to be complicated or difficult. During the summer I do a lot of grilling outside. Here I just rubbed a little bit of olive oil on a piece of salmon and placed it on top of a couple of sprigs of dill I snagged out of the garden. I piled some more dill on top then put the pan on a hot grill and cooked the fish for about 2-3 minutes on each side. The blackened, crispy dill adds a wonderful flavor to the fish. If you don’t have fresh dill, you can just sprinkle both sides with dried dill and it will work just as well.

Summertime Green Smoothies

This is my favorite time of year for breakfast smoothies when the garden is brimming with nutrient-rich greens! There is nothing more gratifying or flavorful (or easier!) than walking outside and picking a handful of fresh garden greens and blending them up into a power-packed breakfast drink.

Relax with magnesium

  Magnesium is Nature’s original relaxer. Magnesium has long been used for calming nerves and relaxing muscles and as a natural laxative. Its therapeutic role in both anxiety and depression is well supported. Our ancestors would have had a ready supply from food grown on magnesium rich soil. Modern farming practices have diminished magnesium levels in some soils. Magnesium is present in many natural water sources – the “harder” the water, the more minerals like calcium and magnesium it contains. Magnesium is removed in municipal water treatments and in “soft” water systems used in many homes and offices. Foods that contain magnesium like seafood, whole grains, Brazil nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables are not consumed in great quantities in the Western diet. For all of those reasons, and because stress depletes our magnesium levels quickly, the average American is deficient in magnesium. The Hordaland Health Study in Norway of over 5700 individuals found that magnesium intake was definitely related to depression. Those who had less magnesium in their diets had higher rates of depression. An article in Neuropharmacology describes a study with mice at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. They found that anxiety-related behaviors can be induced by making mice deficient in magnesium. Magnesium had already been shown to be an effective treatment for both depression and anxiety in mice. A Russian study demonstrated that both anxiety and depression could be induced in mice by making them deficient in magnesium. They also found that the symptoms could be significantly relieved by adding magnesium back into the diet and that even better results were obtained when the mice were treated with both magnesium and vitamin B6 together. Another study on Russian children aged 6-12 with ADHD found a very strong difference between the control group and the children given magnesium and vitamin B6. The children given magnesium and vitamin B6 showed improvements in behavior, decreased anxiety and aggression, and increased characteristics of attention. George and Karen Eby have done extensive research on the effects of magnesium on depression and anxiety at their nutritional research center in Austin, Texas. In a paper they wrote titled, “Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment”, they present numerous case histories showing rapid recovery (less than 7 days) from major depression using 125-300 mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime. Exactly how magnesium works to alleviate anxiety and depression is not fully understood but there is some evidence to suggest that it acts on GABA receptors, increasing GABA levels which decreases anxiety and stress-related depression. It appears to also assist...

Trytophan and Serotonin

  A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance that is produced in the brain and carries messages from one nerve cell to another. It seems obvious that the brain is part of the body. And, yet, I think many people think of the brain as a closed system that operates separate from the body. We’ve probably all heard depression referred to as “a chemical imbalance” in the brain. We have chemicals in our brains that are supposed to somehow be “in balance”. It follows then that if we have a “chemical imbalance” we need to take chemicals to restore that balance. That is the idea behind taking anti-depressants – to correct the “chemical imbalance” in our brains. What many people don’t realize is that nutrients are involved in creating neurotransmitters. For instance, when we eat turkey, vitamin B-6 along with the amino acid, tryptophan, work together to convert the tryptophan from the turkey into the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter and is one of the major mood regulators. Since low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, most anti-depressants target serotonin with the goal of increasing available serotonin levels in the brain. We can increase the serotonin levels in our brains with the proper foods. In fact, anti-depressants do not increase serotonin in the brain. Anti-depressants work to make better use of what serotonin is already there. The only way to increase serotonin is by ingesting tryptophan. Men typically have higher levels of serotonin than women, which could be one explanation for why women have higher rates of depression. Foods high in tryptophan include: Chicken Turkey Dairy products Nuts Wild Game and fowl Tuna Salmon Lobster Crab Cod Sardines Beans Eggs Pumpkin seeds Wheat germ Tryptophan converts to serotonin with the help of other nutrients, most notably vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 is also present in the foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan competes with other amino acids in protein-rich foods fighting for entry into the brain. Tryptophan will often get beat out by other amino acids and get left behind unless it is eaten together with starchy food. Whether this is because the starch causes the body to release insulin and the insulin aids in carrying the tryptophan from the bloodstream to the brain or whether it is because the starch itself or the fiber in the starchy food slows the digestive process giving the tryptophan more time to reach the brain is not entirely clear. But, if you eat foods containing tryptophan together with starchy carbohydrates, you are more likely to be...

If you could only change one thing – omega-3’s...

  People often ask me if there was just one thing they could change about their diet, what should it be? The one change we should make as individuals and as a nation that would probably be the most beneficial overall, is to increase our intake of omega 3 fatty acids and decrease our intake of omega 6 fatty acids. WHY INCREASE OMEGA 3’S? Omega-3’s and omega-6’s are fatty acids that control inflammation in the body. Omega-3’s are basically anti-inflammatories, suppressing the flammatory response. Omega-6’s excite the flammatory response. So, between the two, they regulate inflammation in the body. The body needs some inflammation to protect itself and heal from various kinds of damage. Inflammation also triggers the immune system to fight diseases. But, chronic inflammation may be at the root of all major illnesses. It’s important to have both kinds in our diet but it’s important to have them in the proper balance. Ideally, we would consume them in equal amounts. In other words, in a ratio of 1:1 or no higher than 4:1. The problem with the modern Western diet is that we have created a huge imbalance of these two important fatty acids where we now consume around 20-25 times as much omega-6’s as omega-3’s, or in a ratio of 20-25:1! This is because omega-6’s are found in seed oils like soybean oil, safflower oil, and corn oil that is used in fast foods and in processed foods like cookies, chips, crackers, and other snack foods. These high proportions of omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation. The imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may also contribute to obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence. WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? Omega-3’s are found in flax seed oil, fatty fish like salmon, cod, and sardines, and walnuts. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-6 fatty acids. Other “good” sources of omega-6’s are other kinds of nuts like almonds and peanuts, and seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. While some of the “good” foods, like almonds and avocados, have a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, they also have many redeeming qualities. These whole, natural foods are also good sources of many other important nutrients and fiber. So, the omega-3’s and omega-6’s are both good for us, as long as we eat them in close to equal proportions. Luckily, as with so many foods that contain important nutrients, omega-3’s and omega-6’s co-occur in many foods. And, like so many other things, if we obtain them by eating them in their natural state, the...