We all love food. It’s a vital source of energy, nutrition and enjoyment: it influences the way our body functions and how we feel. When we find ourselves reaching for feel good NOW food, like chocolate, alcohol, soft drinks, sweets, meat or ice cream, the joy in the enjoyment is quickly forgotten when low energy, a drop in blood sugar, increased anxiety with sugar withdrawals, depressed mood, a sluggish and gassy digestive system follow.
We find ourselves on the roller coaster of using food to lift our mood, feeling good, then feeling bad and back to the quick fix foods.
Headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression and general irritability are all indicators of imbalances in the body that can be reduced by increasing your intake of whole, fresh foods with medicinal qualities.
So, which mood enhancing food, is most absent from the Australian diet? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s a vegetable)…
And which vitamin rich food satisfies sugar cravings without the anxiety hangover?
Rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium & iron, leafy greens contain chlorophyl, which purifies the blood, supports the immune system, reduces inflammation and rejuvenates the body. Bitter greens stimulate the digestive system, increasing bowel mobility.
Sweet, fruits like mango, pineapple and banana contain natural sugars, fibre and essential vitamins like vitamin C, D & A that optimise absorption of the minerals in leafy greens in the gut.
Blended together, leafy greens, fruits & nuts create a delicious food that’s a drink, AKA green smoothie, that’s wonderfully balanced and able to optimise absorption of micronutrients essential to nourishing the brain and improving feelings of wellbeing.
8 ways green smoothies support mental health and which foods to add for medicinal benefits.
Increase your mental clarity, concentration & focus:
Antioxidants and carotenoids found in both fruits and leafy greens help protect your brain. B-vitamins, help combat stress, as well as improving your memory, focus, and overall brain function. Folic acid, improves mental clarity.
To increase clarity & focus, add blueberries, nuts, lettuce, kale, collards, broccoli, and spinach to your smoothie.
Increased satisfaction & reduce restlessness:
Unlike fruit juices, green smoothies use whole fruits and vegetables, retaining the fibre. Fibre is essential for good colon health and it keeps your bowels toned. Reducing constipation and headaches, it promotes regularity. Fibre creates a feeling of satisfaction and fullness, reducing restless cravings to snack.
To increase that full feeling, add nuts and avocado to your whole fruits like banana, mango, pineapple.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that regulates neurotransmitters throughout the brain and nervous system. It is also involved in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Avocado, cocoa, nuts & leafy greens like kale, collard greens and turnip greens are all rich in magnesium.
Seen as a precursor to many serious lifestyle diseases including dementia, heart disease and stroke, reducing inflammation is important to brain health in both the long and short term. It influences how the brain ages, as well as how we feel today. Body pain, swelling, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, anxiety and depression are caused by inflammation. Adding anti-inflammatory foods to your smoothie will help combat inflammation. There has been a lot in the press about anti-inflammatory foods like ginger and turmeric, which can be added to your smoothie, but kale, spinach, collard greens, almonds and walnuts and pineapple are all anti-inflammatory super foods too.
Folate rich leafy greens helps fight memory loss.
The addition of omega 3 rich avocado supports memory and makes the smoothie creamy.
Leafy green veggies contain high levels of folic acid which is a natural antidepressant. The hormone serotonin lift moods and is increased by adding bananas, nuts & seeds, pineapples and oats.
Refined sugars are known to cause anxiety when the body comes “off” the sugar high. By replacing refined sugars with natural ones found in the fresh fruit, you are avoiding the anxiety cycle.
Foods to decrease anxiety, that can be added to your smoothie include pumpkin seeds, bananas & brazil nuts. Avoid too much parsley for anxiety.
The gut brain connection:
The gut and brain are connected via 500 million neurons of the nervous system. The vagus nerve, the largest one of all, is like a highway sending information from the brain to the gut, but also from the gut to the brain via neurotransmitters. Under stress, the gut will send messages to the brain, which will then impact feelings like anxiety, depression and fear. In short, good gut microbes metabolise chemicals that nourish the brain. When the diet includes fresh fruit and vegetables, good microbes thrive and prosper. When the diet is lacking, the microbes struggle to do their job as effectively, compromising the way you feel.
The non-soluble fibre found in leafy greens and fibrous, whole fruits like citrus, mango, pineapple and apple provide a banquet for good microbes to feast and flourish.
Green smoothies are best consumed in summer, when the weather is warm and ingredients are fresh and in season. They have a cooling and hydrating benefit most suited to this time of the year.