If you’re depressed, anxious, feeling low or experiencing mood swings, you may want to make some simple ingredient swaps that can help to boost your feelings of mental health. Here are some of my preferred ingredient swaps for mental wellness:
1. Swap trans fats for healthy Omega-3s that are the precursors to essential neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are hormones that ensure healthy moods, emotional balance and an overall feel-good state. You’ll find healthy Omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds and flax seed oil, hempseeds and hempseed oil, raw walnuts and wild salmon.
2. Reduce meat consumption in favor of plant-based protein to drop C-reactive protein levels in the body. Excessive meat consumption can raise levels of these inflammatory compounds that affect mental and emotional health. Instead of meat or poultry, choose one of the these plant-based sources of protein, which include: avocado, coconut, beans (kidney, black, navy, pinto, Romano beans or chickpeas), nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and walnuts), quinoa, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, miso, tempeh, almond milk, coconut milk and hemp seed milk.
3. Choose filtered water over most bottled or tap water. Most tap water and many types of bottled water contain harmful heavy metals like cadmium or lead. An inexpensive water filter can remove these harmful heavy metals. Check out 10 Ways to Remove Toxic Heavy Metals for more information on sources of metals and ways to reduce your exposure.
4. Stop using perfume or cologne. The fragrance they contain can include any of several hundred chemicals, most of which are derived from petrochemicals and can have damaging effects on moods. Choose essential oils derived from natural plant materials like flowers, herbs and spices instead.
5. Use all-natural dryer balls instead of dryer sheets or fabric softeners. They are linked to headaches, migraines, depression and more. Dryer balls are usually free of the many chemicals linked to dryer sheets and are available at most natural food stores. Check out Why You Should Stop Using Dryer Sheets for more information about the many harmful ingredients in dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners.
6. Munch on raw, unsalted walnuts instead of chips. For better brain health, it’s time to go nuts: with walnuts, that is. Walnuts are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids that help quell brain inflammation, too. Research in The Journal of Nutrition also found that walnuts contain antioxidants that destroy free radicals that could otherwise have a damaging effect on the brain and mental health. Choose raw, unsalted walnuts found in the refrigerator section of their health food store since Omega-3s tend to be vulnerable to heat.
7. Skip the “air fresheners” or scented candles. Before you spritz your furniture with so-called “disinfectants” or “air fresheners” or plug-in a room deodorizer—think again. These products contain many harmful ingredients including having serious effects on mental health. Add 10 drops of natural, essential oils like lavender, thyme, bergamot or other oil to a spritzer bottle filled with water. Spritz throughout your home to improve the smell and naturally disinfect the air and surfaces.
8. Avoid the MSG-laden bottled sauces in favor of homemade ones. MSG is found in most bottled dressings and is linked to depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. It’s easy to make your own bottled salad dressings or sauces. For salad dressings simply use a ratio of 2:1 olive oil to vinegar or lemon juice and then add herbs, fruit or other desired ingredients to get the flavor you’d like. You can make your own teriyaki sauce from a mixture of soy sauce, olive oil, ginger, garlic, chili and a bit of honey or coconut sugar.
9. Choose the natural sweetener stevia instead of aspartame and sucralose. According to researchers at the American Academy of Neurology, if you drink four or more cans of soda daily, you’re 30 percent more likely to suffer from depression. And, diet soda has been specifically found to cause an imbalance in the brain hormones dopamine and serotonin. You need these hormones in balance to maintain healthy moods and to feel good.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the president of PureFood BC, an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds: The 4-Week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier Brain.