New Recipe: High Protein Smoothie (And A Bit On Nutrition for Anxiety and Depression)

If you’ve ever been depressed or suffered from anxiety, or have seen someone you care about suffer, you know that treating it can be difficult. There are so many components that go into the treatment of neurological disorders such as depression and anxiety. It’s not like a sprained ankle, where the cause is clear and the treatment is pretty straightforward. There can be many causes of anxiety and depression such as genetic predisposition, prior head injury, metal toxicity, nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, blood sugar imbalances, chronic stress,  and there is even some evidence that having cholesterol levels that are *too low* can contribute to anxiety and depression.

It is important to work with a doctor or trusted medical practitioner to find a plan that works for you, but alongside that you can support your efforts with good nutrition. For instance, when a person’s blood sugar is imbalanced, they will oftentimes experience anxiety (this happens to me). An anxious or depressed person needs optimal levels of good quality protein (organic meat, eggs, fermented dairy like yogurt) and high quality fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty fish) to help their brains function well. Many times we see a correlation between low B vitamins and depression and anxiety. So make sure to get plenty of whole grains in the form of brown rice, oats, and other non-glutenous grains. You can also get B vitamins in beans/legumes as well as dark leafy greens.  And, what might be most important in the nutrition discussion is our gut flora and how it affects our mental health. More and more research indicates that there is a very strong connection between how healthy our gut is and how healthy our brains are. It’s called the Gut/Brain Axis, and I think it has a lot of merit.  In an article in the Annals of Gastroenterology in 2015, we are told that:

“Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that enteric microbiota has an important impact on GBA (Gut Brain Axis), interacting not only locally with intestinal cells and ENS (Enteric Nervous System), but also directly with CNS (Central Nervous System) through neuroendocrine and metabolic pathways.”

Basically, our gut is a very important center of activity for our nervous system, and directly communicates with the rest of our bodies, including our neurological system. A healthy gut microbiota can have a very beneficial effect on our mental health.

I’m not trying to insinuate that all of our mental and emotional problems stem from the Standard American Diet (SAD). That would be simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. BUT, I will say that research has proven that diet does have an effect on our mental well being. So, alongside any other remedies you might be trying such as medication, yoga, exercise, counseling, and supplements, it would be a really good idea to work on your nutrition. I understand that when you are in the thick of anxiety or depression, adding one more thing to your to-do list might well be too overwhelming. My advice is to make small changes as you are able.

Start with ditching your highly processed cereal for this high-protein smoothie. It’s got yogurt, which is good for your gut. It’s got a lot of high quality protein in the form of yogurt and whey. It has spinach and blueberries, both of which are high in antioxidants and really great for reducing inflammation. Add some coconut oil and you’ve got a good start to your day.

I plan on writing more about anxiety and depression because I think it’s such an important topic and so many people are struggling. And there is so much that can be done nutritionally, so stay tuned.

***I am not a doctor, nor am I prescribing any one treatment. My advice is never intended to take the place of the medical care you might already be receiving.

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Fats, Carbs and Protein For The Win

I have always struggled with my blood sugar. I am infamous in my family for getting, shall we say, cranky if my blood sugar dips. I regularly get a little lightheaded upon standing if it’s been too long since I last ate, and there have been times when I have gotten sweaty, shaky, and nauseated from waiting too long to eat.

I always just thought that this was how I was built. I couldn’t understand it when people told me they regularly skipped meals. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible. In my recent studies to become a Nutrition Consultant, I’ve been learning a lot about blood sugar irregularities, also knows as dysglycemia. Because of regular blood tests, I know that everything else is functioning normally, and so far my low blood sugar issues haven’t caused any damage. BUT, left unchecked, high or low blood sugar can lead to all kinds of problems. We all know diabetes is a huge problem in our country, and chronically high blood sugar can (and probably will) lead to a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis somewhere down the line unless you get it under control.

The good news is there is a lot we can do with our nutrition to help stabilize our blood sugar. Last week I started a concerted effort to make sure every single snack and meal contained a healthy fat (think nuts, avocado, fish, whole fat yogurt, olives, olive oil), a healthy carb (like those found in sweet potatoes, sprouted grain toast, or an apple), and high quality protein (again, nuts and fish and yogurt, but also chicken, legumes, a hard boiled egg, or hummus). Plus for each meal, lots of non-starchy veggies. I also have been giving myself a snack a couple hours after breakfast. I used to try to just hold out until lunch, but would find myself literally counting the minutes until 11:00 a.m. Ever since I’ve made these changes, It has made a HUGE difference in my hunger levels. It used to be that every afternoon between about 2 pm and dinner time, I would be ravenous. Normally that’s when I would inhale too many crackers because my blood sugar was low and simple carbs were what my body was begging for. But for the last week my blood sugar feels quite stable. I can wait until 12:00 or 1:00 for lunch now that I’m having a snack. And that period between lunch and dinner is no longer excruciating (because I’m nourishing my body with what it needs earlier in the day). I’ve been on vacation with family and have been so much more flexible in when we eat our meals because I’m not feeling like I might pass out if I don’t eat rightthisverysecond.

I don’t know if my weight will change, and quite frankly I don’t care. I like the fact that I feel healthier, more flexible about my eating schedule, and less cranky. I’m sure my family will enjoy those benefits as well.

So, if you feel like maintaining an equilibrium with your blood sugar is an issue, try this method. It takes a bit of planning, but it is worth it. And please check back in with me and let me know if it works for you!

For healthy snacking ideas, click here.

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