Mind, body, spirit. In order to take care of our minds, we need to take care of our body and our souls too. What would happen if we approached our happiness by shopping for the most nutrient dense, energizing foods rather than reaching for the nearest tub of Ben and Jerry’s to avoid feeling our feelings? (not that there’s anything wrong with Ben and Jerry’s sometimes!). If we want to take the best of care of our brains and in turn our happiness, a brilliant start is with whole food.
If we pay attention to eating more nutrient rich food, the brain grows and becomes more balanced. Incredible things can happen in the brain and nervous system if we approach our happiness and mental health with the view that we can be at our optimum by eating whole, delicious and healthy food. In this case, not just any healthy food, but choosing to consume whole foods which specifically enhance the bio chemistry responsible for increasing “happy hormones” like serotonin in your brain. All we need to do is create the right conditions for your brain to flourish by feeding it foods that help us feel good.
An undernourished brain is an unhappy brain. I can personally vouch for this. I was a relatively vibrant and healthy young lass, and in 2002 my best friend who also happened to be my younger sister passed away from Cerebral Malaria while she was living in Sumbawa Indonesia. I flew into Brisbane airport from her funeral only to hear that my lovely hound had passed while i was away. An extremely tumultuous and confronting time for me, had me not resting enough nor eating well. Dealing with severe grief and a very low immune system soon saw me in hospital with Viral Meningitis and a kidney infection. Let's just say that I was far from well. My brain was recovering from the Meningitis, I was deeply unhappy and continued to fall into an exhausted heap with adrenal fatigue.
Slowly and tenderly I stepped back onto the path back to health. One of the first things I said to myself while in hospital with Viral Meningitis, was, if i make it, I'm not spending another day doing what I think I SHOULD be doing. I would spend the rest of my life doing what I felt a deep calling towards and I hoped I would someday be able to help others too. I also had to admit to myself that along the way my desire for success had taken higher priority than my health, a true recipe for disaster. Time to redesign my entire life. For now, health had to ABSOLUTELY be my highest priority.
I headed straight for the farmers markets….. along with walking out with an abundance of healthy vegetables and fruit ready to cook with, I had reconnected with the farmers and our community. This in itself I have found to be such a heart warming positive experience, which in turn increases serotonin and builds our sense of community. I also started councelling, receiving massages whenever I could, practicing yoga, began meditating, slept a great deal and started getting my life back on track. I knew that if I just felt that little bit better every day, I was headed I the right direction.
Every time I reached for a tasty morsel, I would ask myself… “Is this helping me heal or not?”. Once I had committed to my health, within 6 months I was very much on the road to feeling abundant, happy and ready to share this delicious pathway to a vibrant mind with others. 18 months later I was a different woman. As we all so often experience in hindsight, these perceived tragic moments in life, once integrated and learnt from, are so often an unexpected gift.
Our moods, our memory and our brain chemistry are influenced by the foods we eat. I don’t want to get too science-y here, but it’s worth mentioning foods that encourage the proliferation of a compound found in the brain called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is the building block that helps cells to replicate well. It’s a simple formula. When we eat whole, unprocessed food, BDNF goes up. When we eat processed and sugar laden foods, BDNF goes down and our brains don’t function as well.
Food containing vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are particularly helpful in increasing BDNF are:
Zinc: spinach, beef (preferably grass fed), kidney beans, garlic, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashew nuts, oysters, egg yolks, peanuts, dark chocolate and quinoa.
Magnesium: spinach, chard, lentils, pumpkin seeds, garlic, yoghurt or kefir, almonds, black beans, salmon, avocado, figs, dark chocolate, goats cheese, artichokes, ginger, banana and coriander.
B6 and B12: Liver, mackarel, sardines, red meat, salmon, chicken, eggs, lentils, nuts and seeds, whole grains and bran, beans and legumes.
Folate: Liver, egg yolk, dried beans, lentils, split peas, nuts, wholegrain breads, sweet potato, spinach, beetroot, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, banana, oranges, peaches.
Omega 3 fats: flaxseed oil, flax seeds, walnuts, fish oil, wild salmon, chia seeds, mackerel, sprouted radish seeds, basil, cloves, majoram.
Fermented foods and probiotics: sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchee, yogurt, acidophilous and bifidophilus capsules.
Taking high quality supplements of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients listed above can also be very beneficial. Please consult a holistic doctor or nutritionist before taking supplements, and know that it can be very worthwhile.
Reducing inflammation in the brain is also key to supporting a happy mind. One of the most critical decisions you can make today to reduce inflammation is to choose to eat whole foods and eliminate or consume little sugar. This reduces blood sugar levels and reduces inflammation and increases brain health, happiness and functionality. We become clearer, more tolerant, kinder, and wiser.
It’s being mindful of my lifestyle and food choices, and including plenty of scrumptious foods that our brains adore, that has helped me find happiness. It’s no secret, I’m deeply passionate about putting high vibe food on the plate so that we can feel good during and after eating. Here are a couple of recipes I’d love to share to help you that are sure to support your happiness and your tastebuds too.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt during my time on this slow spinning blue planet, it’s that many of us have the opportunity to be the very best that we can be - utterly happy and undeniably well. All of this, so that we in turn have the capacity to help others to feel alive, vibrant and deeply content. It IS possible, and sometimes all that’s required is being clear about what we eat. Here’s to the task of devouring tasty morsels specifically designed for growing a brain that’s primed for good moods, learning and clear thinking. To have this opportunity in the first place, we are some of the most fortunate beings on the planet. Don’t waste a moment.
Big love to you,
Skye Craig xx