What To Eat To Feel Better Emotionally

February 11, 2023

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression could be one of the top health concerns in the world by the year 2030. Our emotions and moods affect everything in life: our productivity and focus at our jobs or school, in our social lives, and with our relationships we have with our family, friends, classmates, co-workers. Are you someone who struggles with moods? Do you consider yourself “overly emotional”? Does being on an “emotional rollercoaster” resonate for you or someone you love? Tune-in today to learn about what’s going on in your body biochemically and how real food nutrition can help you feel better.

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KARA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We're a company specializing in life-changing nutrition education and counseling. I recently came across a statistic that really took me by surprise. According to the World Health Organization, or we'll call it WHO as the acronym, depression could be one of the top health concerns in the world by the year 2030. That's just seven years away. That's not that far out in the future.

Right now, it's 2023. Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health conditions worldwide. So it's not surprising that researchers continue to look for new ways to reduce the impact that mental health conditions have on society. You know, if all the prescription medications, if all the therapies were the answer, the rates of anxiety and depression and other mental illness wouldn't continue to increase each year.

MELANIE: You know, Kara, I find it really heartbreaking to see clients of all ages each week suffering from anxiety. So listeners, are you someone who struggles with your moods? Maybe you refer to yourself as kind of really emotional for yourself. As someone with anxiety or depression, maybe it feels like you were on a rollercoaster in your life, and that is you feel a little out of control. So hopefully Kara and I, we can give some practical solutions today.

KARA: Yeah, definitely. You know, our emotions and our moods, they affect everything: relationships we have with family, friends, maybe it's a classmate, a coworker. Emotions and moods affect our productivity and our focus. So whether that's, you know, in our career, how we perform in school, and of course our social lives. So it's very impactful.


KARA: Very impactful.

MELANIE: I've had clients say they feel like they white knuckle it through the day, and at the end of the day they’re like, oh, I made it through the day when they can finally sort of unwind and in be in a safe space. So if you, if you can relate to the emotional rollercoaster analogy, whether this is you personally or maybe a loved one, we want you to know that this is not a character defect. What is going on is a biochemical reaction in your brain and your body.

So the title of our show today is “What to Eat to Feel Better Emotionally”. My cohost and I take this topic really seriously, and we'll walk you through some key foods and nutrients that could be missing from your diet. I've had clients who started eating more protein, vegetables, and healthy fats, and by adding in what their brains were missing; I'm thinking iron and zinc, some B-vitamins, and definitely the minerals: magnesium; some good fat for that brain; just the, just a few. I've seen their moods improve and become more stable within a pretty short time; anywhere from a week to a few weeks. For many, some might take a little longer, but it takes that focused commitment. But it, it really works. I know you see it too, Kara.

KARA: I do. Yeah. And personally I've struggled in that area, and so I know firsthand…

MELANIE: Your heart is in this area.

KARA: Yeah. I'm very passionate about this. Well, let's do brief introductions and then we can't wait to share more with you on this topic. I'm Kara Carper. I'm a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist. I have a master's in Holistic Health, and I teach classes at our Wayzata office and also virtual and in-person corporate classes. I really love doing those lunch and learns. Mel, I don't know if you've done one of those in a while, but it's, it's just really great to go out to corporations who want us there so they can improve the health and wellbeing of their employees.

MELANIE: Yeah. It's a different climate. Yeah. It's interesting. For me, it's always about trying to figure out parking when I go to those corporate classes.

KARA: I hear you. Yep.

MELANIE: …when I visit those places in the cities. But I'm Melanie Beasley, and I'm a Licensed and Registered Dietitian. I'm a nutrition counselor at the Eagan location. And of course, I also do clients through Zoom. I would say the majority of my clients are through Zoom now. And I teach classes as well. So love it. Love my job. I love what we do here.

Research shows connection between healthy eating and mental health


KARA: It's great to be back here with you again. So, so Mel, I just want to talk about a study. It was from 2017. It was published in the BMC Medical Journal. So the study was called the “Smiles Trial”.

MELANIE: Oh, how interesting.

KARA: I know. It was, it was super interesting. It was one of the first randomized controlled trials that looked at whether or not dietary interventions, so basically changing what people are eating, could treat mental health problems. So it was a smaller study, close to 70 people that had moderate or severe depression. They either received nutrition counseling or social support, and that was in addition to whatever treatment they were already getting. So the group who had nutrition counseling, they were served foods kind of similar to a Mediterranean type diet.

MELANIE: Pretty clean.

KARA: Exactly. You know, you got your vegetables, your fruits, healthy fats, olive oils, nuts, things like that. And a variety of proteins: meat, poultry, dairy, and fish that contained omega-3 fatty acids. So Mel, I know we were talking about this study. Can you tell our listeners what the outcome was?

MELANIE: Yes, I'd be happy to, because this was such a fun study. The outcome was so interesting if you're a nutrition nerd like Kara and I. Well, at the end of the study, the group that received nutrition counseling had significant greater improvements in their depression symptoms: not surprising; while only 8% of the people in the group who received just the social support had their depressive symptoms go away. 32% of people in the nutrition counseling group had relief from their depressive symptoms. And in the study, they referred to it as remission, meaning that it wasn't a temporary thing. That's pretty phenomenal.

Not surprising though, because I see frequently in clinic, research is just starting to explore these connections that Dar Kvist and our team here at NWW have been teaching for over 30 years. So we're not really surprised, and I feel confident in saying it is one of our greatest joys as practitioners is seeing people go from that white knuckling that I was talking about, to feeling like, hello, me. I, I'm a hundred percent me again without the anxiety and the depression. That to me is what I love about this job.

KARA: There's nothing better.


KARA: Yeah. And that's really phenomenal. You shared that 32% of the people who received the nutrition counseling had their depressive symptoms go away. That's a third of the group.

MELANIE: It really tells you how nourishing the body also nourishes the mind.

KARA: Definitely. That's really what we want to get across today. So, so just kind of breaking down again, what was in the study. And our philosophy at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, it's similar, you know, it's, it's not far off from a Mediterranean, like you referred to it as very clean eating. The foundation of the plan is similar. Our brains need whole foods, real foods. Our brains do not recognize processed convenience and fast foods. And unfortunately, we've just been bombarded with those for at least 50 years.


KARA: And so…

MELANIE: You know, and when you think about, it's not just that you're not getting the nourishment, it's that now you're getting things that are creating inflammation in the body that your body doesn't recognize as food. So it has to deal with that on top of not getting the nourishment.

KARA: Right, it's almost, yeah, just almost getting toxins instead of what we need, the nutrient dense foods. So the group who ate the whole real foods in the study and just, this was just for 12 weeks, and a third of them had a remission in moderate to severe depression.

MELANIE: That is that's amazing. And if I, listeners, if you are someone struggling with depression, you're someone struggling with anxiety and I said you could have some relief in 12 weeks, pretty sure that would be exciting news. Right? There was another study done in June of 2022, and it was conducted in a real life setting showed from pretty dismal results with the most common treatments for depression. There were 1,279 people diagnosed with depression. Less than 25% respondent to treatment. And the treatment was really expensive.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: So how disheartening if you were someone who went through that.

KARA: Exactly. You know, the group was treated with multiple prescription drugs, even hospitalization and psychotherapy. So it really surprises and shocks me that nutrition isn't talked about more when it comes to treating mental health. Changing what we eat to whole unprocessed foods, it's not invasive like some of the standard treatments that we mentioned. And there are no side effects, you know?

MELANIE: Yeah. That's, that's a piece there is that each medication has a side effect.

KARA: They do. All of the mental health drugs have a variety of negative side effects.

MELANIE: That's a really good point I want to talk about when we come back from break.

KARA: You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Our topic today is “What to Eat to Feel Better Emotionally”. Recently, I was listening to Minnesota Public Radio in my car. They were doing a story on the new guidelines that came out in January of this year, 2023; guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. And the guidelines were on how to treat the childhood obesity epidemic. You know, some of you may know that one in five American children are obese and one in three are overweight. So when we come back from break, Melanie will share what the new guidelines are for treatment.


MELANIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Melanie Beasley, a Licensed Dietitian here with Kara Carper, a Licensed Nutritionist. On January 9th, 2023, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with new guidelines on what should be done to treat the childhood obesity epidemic. The new guidelines say this: children struggling with obesity should be evaluated and treated early and aggressively, including with medications for kids as young as 12 and surgery for those as young as 13. Four new weight loss drugs are now approved for children 12 or older. And one is even an injectable drug. One of the drugs has been approved for teens 16 and older. Bariatric surgery has been approved for those 13 years or older. This frightens me.

KARA: I feel the same way.

MELANIE: You know, and we see people with bariatric surgery as adults, and it, it doesn't come without a cost to health and their body. And I think all these, these children, oh, it just scares me.

KARA: You and I are not denying that childhood obesity needs to be addressed. It's a very serious issue in our country.

MELANIE: Because it affects health.

KARA: Correct.

MELANIE: You know, body image, blah, blah, blah. But let's talk about the health, because we want our children to live long, strong, healthy, comfortable lives.

KARA: Of course. Yeah. Yes. And we believe that educating parents and families how to eat real food; doesn't that just make sense?


KARA: It's a safe approach. Again, it's not invasive. People do need support. They need to be taught how to grocery shop, how to cook, how to put together healthy meals. I, we just don't believe the answer is in a pill, an injection, or with bariatric surgery. Ideally, you know, everybody would be educated on how to prevent obesity before it happens. I think it, this is so, such a serious topic. We should maybe do a future radio show just on this.

Protein produces feel-good brain chemicals


MELANIE: Yeah, I think so. It's so important. I mean, we want our children and our future to be healthy people and happy people and comfortable people. So let's be clear. Many times these medications for mental health are definitely necessary. But as dietitians and nutritionists, our scope really is the food. So that's what we're talking about. And we know protein is hugely important when it comes to balancing emotions and moods. So specifically animal proteins. These animal proteins: think steak, salmon, fish, shrimp, pork; these have the building blocks, amino acids that make the feel good brain chemicals.

So if you are eating dairy, you want to make sure it's a full fat dairy. Fish gives our brain what we need to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, as well as many other neurotransmitters. We have hundreds. And there are over 200 of those brain chemicals that we need so you want your brain to feel full of these good chemicals. And we do that by eating eggs for breakfast instead of cereal. And you can throw in sausage or Canadian bacon or, you know ham or hamburger or something like that. And that's going to start your day with your body being able to make those brain chemicals that you need to start feeling relaxed and calm.

KARA: So think about it. Have you made those connections as a listener; have you made the connections between what you eat and how you feel? Eating three to four, I'd say at least three to four ounces of protein with your meals will provide a steady stream of those feel-good brain chemicals that Mel was just talking about.

MELANIE: Yeah. You know, Kara, I, I grew up on cereal and skim milk. That was what we had. We had five boxes to choose from. And I imagine listeners, many of you, you did as well. As you're hearing this, you're thinking yep, yep. I had the, the Cheerios box or the Rice Krispies box.

KARA: I can relate to the Cheerios.

MELANIE: Well, instead of starting your day with a bowl of cereal, try having a couple hard boiled eggs, maybe egg bake, maybe cooked turkey sausage. And if you pair that with a small apple and a handful of almonds, you're setting yourself up for a day of good and even moods. I started my day with a protein shake that I throw a little veggie in. I throw in a little bit of fruit, a protein powder, a good one. I use a Paleo Protein powder.

KARA: Mm-Hmm.

MELANIE: And that started my day off with 22 grams of protein.

KARA: I do the same as well. Usually I kind of alternate between eggs for breakfast or on maybe a more rushed morning, it would be more of like a protein shake.

MELANIE: And you can make, you know, like those egg muffin cups and put those in the freezer that you just, all you have to do is warm them up or even grab them and warm them up at work. So you've got almost like an egg bake and a muffin.

KARA: Oh, that's a, that's a great idea. Even taking our egg bake recipe from the website, weightandwellness.com and making it in a muffin tin.

MELANIE: Easy. Yeah. Yeah. I have a client, she's like, I just don't have time in the morning. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to bring it to work and I'll throw it in the microwave when I get to work. It works for her. And she keeps a jar salsa at work to, to dump on it.

KARA: Oh, that sounds delicious.


Importance of blood sugar balance for even moods


KARA: Well, I'm so glad that you mentioned, you know, putting together these balanced meals is really what we want to emphasize. This portion of the show really resonates with me because like I've shared, I, I tend to go up and down with my moods if I'm not eating regularly and in balance. And so for me, that actually is the most important factor is to keep my blood sugar stable throughout the day.

MELANIE: Oh yeah. Yeah.

KARA: So let's talk about that. Let's talk about blood sugar and how that relates to moods going up and down.

MELANIE: I think that's a big deal. And once you feel like you've gotten some peace with something you've struggled with, it motivates you to move forward. And balancing your blood sugar, it sounds complicated, but it's actually simple, but it does require some forethought and intention. Maybe some of you heard us talk about the magic three. I use this with my clients all the time because they can remember it. The magic three is eating three components together. And that is your protein, some healthy fat and real carbohydrates like vegetables or sweet potato or blueberries. That is going to anchor your blood sugar and start you out the day with the protein that we were talking about for mood, but also it's delicious. So we love that.

KARA: For many people who are struggling with moods, they notice such an improvement just simply by eating in the combination of the magic three. So that's eating regularly, I'd say about every three to four hours throughout the day. And then the magic three is also balancing out the protein, fat, and carbohydrate every time you eat. You know, whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even snacks in between. I've noticed that if I wait five hours or more between meals or snacks, my blood sugar just crashes. It goes too low.

MELANIE: And you get hangry.

KARA: I do get hangry, and unfocused. And Daniel Amen, he wrote Making a Good Brain Great. And he said in that book that “Low blood sugar equals low blood flow to the brain, which can cause poor decision making.” And we know that low blood sugar can lead to low moods, low energy. Some other signs that I've personally noticed, but we hear this from a lot of our clients as well is those uncontrollable cravings. And it's usually for like a sweet treat or your favorite crunchy carbohydrate. Think, you know, chips, crackers. So those are all signs, body signs of having low blood sugar.

MELANIE: So if you think about it, this is when you are driving home from work and you are so irritable with every driver on the road, or your blood sugar dropped too low, you're waiting for food in a restaurant and your husband is getting on your ever-loving nerve because he breathes too loudly. Right? I mean, this is where we just sort of lose our minds. And so having that blood sugar popped to a healthy place and not dropping and then skyrocketing up by eating those processed carbs, it just makes us nicer women.

KARA: Right. So we, we want you to be making those connections. You know, are you feeling road rage? And is it the other drivers or is it that your blood sugar is low?

MELANIE: It could be both. I don't know.

KARA: This is true.

MELANIE: Well, what's really interesting is that people with type two diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to people who have normal regulated blood sugar levels. So ask yourself if you have type two diabetes or prediabetes, is that you? You have to really focus then, right?

KARA: Yeah. And people with type two diabetes, they're also 20% more likely to suffer from a diagnosis of anxiety disorder.


KARA: Yeah. So it's well established in the research: there's a link between poor blood sugar control and having an increased risk of mood disorders, both depression and anxiety. So, alright, looks like we have to take a quick break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and today we're talking about what foods provide the nutrients that our brain needs in order to have stable emotions and moods. Two important nutrients that our brain needs can be kind of challenging to get from food sources. And so people often end up being deficient in things like vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids. So as soon as we come back from break, we will share more about that.


A couple key nutrients for mood support


MELANIE: Welcome back. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Mel, and I'm here with Kara today. If you are struggling with low moods or with anxiety, there are a couple of key nutrients you might be deficient in. About 42% of Americans are low in vitamin D. In 2021, a study found that 70% of adults were not getting enough omega-3s from food. And 95% of children, 95% were not getting enough omega-3s from food. Think about that. Almost all kids in our country are deficient in omega-3, which all ages need for good brain function. So if your child, one of the little signs is if they've got dry skin bumps in their arms and their legs, that's a good indicator.

KARA: Mm-Hmm. Omega-3 is important for basically so many things. I mean, brain health, but also skin health.


KARA: Reduces inflammation. So, and we know it's challenging to get omega-3 and vitamin D from food sources. So if you or your child, and this could be a toddler to a teen, so if someone is struggling with depression or anxiety, it would be a good idea to take a high quality vitamin D3 supplement and a high quality omega three supplement. I give my 11-year-old both vitamin D3, and I also give her the omega-3 fatty acid that it's called DHA. DHA, it's really the same fat that's that our brains are made up of. So she can, I like it because she can swallow the softgel. They're very small, unlike some of those other very large omega three pills.

Higher correlation between type 2 diabetes and anxiety


So before break we were talking about the connection between type two diabetes and that type two diabetics are 20% more likely to suffer with an anxiety disorder. And I came across a study that was from 2019. It was in the medical journal called Psychiatry, and they published an article on rates of depression in type two diabetics. The research showed that there seemed to be five different causes why a type two diabetic would be double at risk to have depression. So the first one I, let's kind of go back and forth with this.


KARA: …with these reasons. But, so the first one is insulin resistance happens in the brain when there's type two diabetes, and that can lead to low moods.

MELANIE: I've also heard that decrease in brain cell growth because of high, those high blood sugar levels. And that's scary.

KARA: And also the brain cells just aren't kind of wiring and firing properly. They're not communicating. Our brain cells want to be able to talk to each other. Right? But when there's high blood sugar or high insulin, they're not able to communicate as well.

MELANIE: Those high blood sugars and that high insulin levels, it actually creates stress response in the body and the brain. And this leads to low moods. This is all stuff that happens in your body you're not even aware of. You're just trying to live your life.

KARA: Exactly. And so again, high blood sugar and high insulin, they create that brain inflammation and, you know, brain inflammation decreases that feel-good chemical, the one that we were talking about earlier, serotonin.


KARA: So there's really, there is a real connection between high blood sugar levels and low moods.

MELANIE: So we have to think about this because type two diabetes is on the rise and 90% of people who have prediabetes, they don't even know it. So this is important information. It's estimated that over 400 million adults in the world have type two diabetes. I always tell my clients, know what your numbers are.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: Know what they are because this is your body and you need to advocate for yourself.

KARA: Exactly. Some of those numbers, you know, we've talked about those in other shows, but fasting glucose, A1C, hemoglobin A1C, and even fasting insulin is a really good benchmark to know.


KARA: So do you think there could be a connection with the more than 400 million adults that have type two diabetes and 300 million adults who have a depressive disorder?

MELANIE: Yeah. That's interesting.

KARA: Yeah.

Healthy fat is critical for blood sugar balance and moods


MELANIE: That's an interesting connection. I think there's absolutely a connection there. Stabilizing your blood sugar level is kind of key to stabilizing your moods. It's a, it's the very first step that we take here. I was working with a client who had diagnosed depression and she also had higher blood sugar levels. She was in the prediabetic range. Yep. And we worked together on the importance of her adding in protein and healthy fats with every meal. She wasn't really thinking about protein. So she had been a chronic dieter and was really stuck in that low fat era. So from back in the 1980s and nineties. I was raised in that era and we became sort of fat phobic. And when people were just jumping on that low fat bandwagon, we started seeing disease rise.

KARA: So Mel, did she follow your advice to avoid, you know, the fat-free or the low fat foods? I know, I mean, from what I've seen, that can be kind of a tough sell because that information gets programmed in the brain.

MELANIE: Of course. And we had to have the conversation several times, which is perfectly fine because you've had decades of low-fat eating. So you need that reassurance and that's why I'm here and that's what we do. And so once she got that reassurance, she was so desperate to feel better, she jumped on it and, and really took off once she started feeling good.

KARA: Oh, that's fantastic. Yeah.

MELANIE: At first she was pretty nervous adding in that protein and fat that I wanted her to. But she was really, like I mentioned, she was desperate and she switched up her morning muffin and started alternating between a protein smoothie and a piece of delicious egg bake. And by the way, both those recipes can be found on our website at weightandwellness.com. And just by starting her day with a balanced blood sugar that already improved her mood for the day, and she also had more energy and a brighter outlook. And it, it made it easier for her to take time and energy to then put together more of those balanced meals that had the protein and the veggies and the healthy fats. And that helped balance her blood sugar. And she just started feeling good. And I think she went on vacation and went off the program and she said when she got back, she was feeling her depression kind of coming.

KARA: Oh, interesting.

MELANIE: Motivated her, you know? Yeah. It just motivated her. And sometimes you do that and then you're like, oh, this is really a thing for me.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: I really do need to do this.

KARA: Everybody falls off. As dietitians and nutritionists, I mean, we're not perfect.

MELANIE: No, of course not.

KARA: So, so unfortunately, I mean, I'm so glad that she got the advice from you to avoid the low fat and the fat-free foods, but some people who struggle with prediabetes or diabetes are still getting advice to eat low fat. That's really…

MELANIE: Oh, I, yes. I had a doctor's appointment the other day, and it was for a women's heart healthy flyer that I picked up just to see what they were saying. And they were talking about low fat eating and increasing the amount of grains and wheat products that you're eating, which affects your blood sugar.

KARA: Right.

MELANIE: And I thought, oh, this is so unfortunate.

KARA: So if someone's struggling with moods, then you know, really having the up and down moods, if they don't have that healthy fat, like you had said, it's an anchor for our blood sugar.

MELANIE: Well, not only that, but if you think about it, our brains are made up primarily of fat. We've got to have fat so that we can have those synapses firing the way they're supposed to that helps our mood.

KARA: I notice if I don't get 10 to 15 grams of healthy fat every time I eat, whether it's a meal or snack, I'll kind of start to get shaky, kind of that hangry, you know, lack of focus: all the signs we talked about earlier of low blood sugar.

MELANIE: Yeah. And I, I get angry because my food doesn't taste as delicious.

KARA: That is where we get our flavor is from those wonderful fats like butter, coconut oil, nuts, avocados.

MELANIE: So the type of fat is really key. If you're eating out a lot and you're getting a lot of takeout, you're getting the type of fats that gum up the synapse. I'm thinking canola oil and peanut oil and safflower oil and some of these processed fats that we don't want for our brains. You know, Kara, I tell my clients to pay attention to their bodies. If you're feeling shaky, you're feeling hungry, fatigued, depressed or anxious, it's a red flag that you're, it's a flare gun really, that your body is sending out to tell you that you need to pay attention to what you're eating.

Even feeling a sense of low self-esteem or low confidence, those can all be signs of low blood sugar. Those brain and body signs can be used as a barometer. It's a signal telling them, hey, when was the last time you ate a meal or a snack? And did you wait more than four to five hours to eat? Did you have adequate healthy fats and proteins? Right. This is all information your body is trying to tell you, and it's just we have to slow down and pay attention because our bodies really are our best doctor.

KARA: Oh, they're sending us messages all the time. That's really why I encourage food journaling, whether it's on a piece of paper or in an app on your phone. And it really helps clients and all of you listeners can make those connections, you know, based on how frequently you're eating and where your moods are at. All right. Well, it looks like it's time for us to take another break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Kara Carper, Licensed Nutritionist. I'm here today with Mel Beasley, Licensed and Registered Dietitian. And our topic today is “What to Eat to Feel Better Emotionally”. You know, I've noticed people have just gotten away from spending time in the kitchen cooking and preparing meals. We started offering virtual cooking classes a while back. They've been very popular. So Mel's going to share some more about our upcoming classes right after break.


MELANIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Our culinary expert, chef Marianne, is teaching some upcoming virtual cooking classes. Our brand new class called Cooking for One is February 22nd at 6:00 PM. There are two classes in March, another brand new class called Healthy Bowls, and also Cooking for Better Digestion. You can check out these classes and sign up on our website, weightandwellness.com. If you have questions, feel free to call our main office at (651) 699-3438. Someone friendly there will help you. The classes are only $25 and you'll receive a link to the recording and will have three days to view the class. So even if the exact days and times don't work for your schedule, you can still get signed up and you can watch the recorded version.

Connection between moods and gut health


So far in the show, we've talked about how protein provides the building blocks, which are amino acids to make those feel-good neurotransmitters. And we've shared the importance of keeping blood sugar levels stable to stay emotionally balanced. Now let's add in the connection, Kara, between low moods and that unhealthy gut.

KARA: Oh my goodness, there are so many studies on that direct connection between our moods and our intestinal health, or we'll call it gut health. So we've talked about how protein is giving our bodies and our brains what we need in order to make those feel good neurotransmitters, things like serotonin and dopamine. But if someone doesn't have a healthy gut, they likely will not have enough healthy bacteria to even make those feel-good chemicals like serotonin.

MELANIE: 90% of the, the feel-good chemicals are neurotransmitters are produced in our digestive system, but only if the digestive system is healthy. Right, Kara? So many things can cause an unhealthy gut, like, oh gosh, antibiotics, pain medications, anti-inflammatories. I'm thinking ibuprofen, Aleve, aspirin, just to name a few and alcohol. And a biggie is really processed and convenience fast foods and sugary treats. They wreak havoc on the gut because they're not feeding, we have to feed the little buggers that are the healthy bacteria in our digestive system because if we don't feed them and they're fed from real foods then there's nothing to supply nutrients and they die off.

KARA: Exactly. And I, I remember even firsthand like having a surgery and every time you're, you know, having a surgery, you're given the anesthesia, antibiotics. And I remember how bad my gut felt afterwards and really, we'll talk a little bit more about this, but I had to supplement with a good probiotic just to kind of get my gut back in order.

MELANIE: Yeah, you got to replace what died off. Right?

KARA: Yeah. And it affected my moods too. So…

MELANIE: Well, the other thing I hear when people are replaced on antibiotics is they start having cravings because the bad bacteria and the yeast begin to flourish and they send little signals to crave sugar.

KARA: Right. Yeast feeds on sugar. That's such a great point.


KARA: Yeah. Wow. So 90% of the feel good chemicals are made in our gut: serotonin and dopamine and all those other feel good chemicals. So we just talked about some factors that make gut health worse, but let's have the spin on what people can do to make their gut health better. And our intestinal tract thrives on whole unprocessed foods. So that's really the first step. I mean, think about everything that you're getting from vegetables: the fiber, the prebiotic.

MELANIE: That's the prebiotic is what you get in your, in your vegetables. So I, I want to touch a little bit on yogurt too is that a lot of my clients will come and say, well, I eat yogurt. It's not enough. It just isn't enough. We don't have enough in our soil anymore to produce enough probiotics. You really need a good probiotic because you hear some foods are probiotic rich like yogurt or kefir. But even, you know, on a healthy plan, it's just, it ends up being not enough. It really depends on each individual, how we approach that plan. But honestly, I think pretty much everybody needs a good probiotic. I've had a few clients that were doing great and they didn't.

Key vitamins, minerals and nutrients for stable moods


But Kara, let's get back to food for a minute. I want to touch on some of those key vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that play an important role for stable emotions and moods. Because again, it's not just that we are putting the good food in. We're also removing the food that doesn't do us well. And so you and I had talked earlier about nutrient dense foods and what we mean is what, Kara? Like really rich, healthy…

KARA: Whole foods. Right. Real foods and Mel, what is that saying? You say you can, if you can't pick it, pluck it. What is that saying? Because that is really the message that we want to get across.

MELANIE: If you can't name the plant you pluck it from or the mother it came from, don't eat it because it needs to be a rich from nature source of food. And so you if you can pluck it or hunt it, it's probably something good that you can eat. There is no pepperoni animal.

KARA: Right. Exactly.

MELANIE: There is no Fruit Loop bush.

KARA: Exactly.

MELANIE: Yeah. So real food does a body good.

KARA: Right. And it's giving our bodies and our brains what we need for optimal moods. Meat is high in zinc. Meat is high in iron, specifically that heme iron, which is the absorbable kind of iron. And we need that for brain health. Right? So that's just an example of how we're getting nutrients to support our brain from real food.

MELANIE: And what we want to emphasize here is it's not just about mental emotional health. It's also about total body health. Because when you support the total body, you support the brain and you support the emotions. So it's a head to toe approach. And we start with the real food concept. Because you can't make a healthy body from nothing. We have to give it something to work with. And so those nutrients are found in nature.

KARA: Right. Some other examples, I mean that's, we're getting from the proteins again, we get those amino acids that make those fantastic feel-good chemicals like serotonin, but we're also getting B12. We know we need vitamin B12 for our brain and we're getting zinc. So you know that. And that's just protein that we've talked about.

MELANIE: You know, and I want to circle back to the B12. I have clients come to me and they'll say, oh, my B12 was really high. And I said, did you take your multivitamin with B12 prior to the test? Yes I did. So it's really what you want to be is off your multivitamins that or any B vitamins a week prior to testing. And then that's a true test of what is your B12 doing.

KARA: Yeah, that's a really good tip for clients and listeners.

MELANIE: It's a big deal. And you know, Kara, low vitamin D is also a big contributor to depression and exhaustion. So knowing what your vitamin D level is; I like to see it over 50; when it gets up there. If you have a low iron, you have a low vitamin D, you're going to be depressed, tired, anxious, and so know your numbers. You know, we circle back to that: know your numbers.

KARA: Yeah. And that's so important. I remember when I got my vitamin D tested and I got a letter from the doctor in the mail and it just said your vitamin D is normal. I really wanted to know my number. So it took several phone calls for me to get to the bottom of what the actual number was because the standard lab range indicated that, you know, 30 was normal. I know for me 30 would mean I'm depressed and low energy.

MELANIE: Exhausted.

KARA: So I had to do a little digging and it turns out it was 77. So I was very pleased with that. But really know your numbers. Like Melanie said.

MELANIE: Yes, gold star. And you know, it's interesting, I've been doing this job 35, 40 years and never in my entire career have I seen someone who's vitamin D was high enough to have toxicity effects. You have, I believe the research you have to be over about 350 before you even start experiencing toxicity. And so you don't have to be afraid.

KARA: Right. That's not, not a concern because I've actually never heard of a diagnosed case of toxicity either.

MELANIE: Yeah. So we, you know, we want it in a healthy range, but certainly we want to empower our clients to know their numbers because I know when your vitamin D drops too low, it puts you at risk for all kinds of things. And when we talk about mental and emotional health, oh my gosh, if you're exhausted and you're tired, you're going to be anxious and you're going to be depressed. We've, we've got to get it up. Nature has done all the work of providing what our bodies and brains need through eating real whole foods. But if you need guidance or you need a reset; all of us do at some point. You want to start going back to nature, eating real food and then pull back what the food industry is feeding you and producing. So if it's been made in a factory, probably not the best for you to be feeding that brain and body.

KARA: Well, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person better health through eating real food. It's a simple but a powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. So we want to thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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