If you close your eyes, can you find your ear with your hand?
This is just one way we experience the connected-ness of our body and brain. We aren’t always entirely aware of this connection. The way we move, sleep, and how we feel – mentally – are all intertwined whether we recognize it or not. It makes sense then, that what we eat and how we eat communicates with our brain.
There are billions of gut bacteria that feed off of food we eat and digest in our GI system. These bacteria can be healthy and happy, or unhealthy and unhappy depending on what eat. When we eat, little communicator cells send messages to our brain to make us feel satisfied, happy, tired, energized, bloated, stressed, etc. What we eat can play a role in how we feel, mentally – for better or worse. There are many other important non-nutrition related factors that can impact our stress level and mental health – such as utilizing therapy resources, meditation and movement. But it’s also important to note that enjoying foods with less processing, saturated fat and added sugar, we have the power to feed our gut bacteria to work toward a healthier and happier environment.Jump to Recipe
Focus on Fiber
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in foods that are grown, such as whole grains (oats, quinoa, whole wheat bread), beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables. When we eat fiber it feeds the healthy gut bacteria in our GI system. This gut bacteria grows and multiplies when it feeds on fiber, creating a healthier gut environment for our bodies. To enjoy a healthy amount of fiber, fill 1/2 of your plate with vegetables and 1/2 of your daily grains whole grains.
Enjoy Probiotic Foods
Probiotic foods are full of good bacteria, which is shown to increase the amount of good bacteria in our gut and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
You can get probiotics from commonly enjoyed foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut. Don’t shy away from trying other fermented foods such as soy/tofu, kombucha (a beverage with probiotics) and pickled vegetables such as Kimchi found in Korean cuisine. Trying new foods can be a delicious way to increase your good gut bacteria!
Choose Healthy Fats
Enjoying heart healthy fats that come from salmon, avocado, walnuts, chia and flax seeds are a great way to absorb the essential fatty acid – Omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties which can signal to our body and brain to reduce inflammation and lower stress. Choosing heart healthy fats instead of saturated fats (found in red meat and fried foods), is an excellent way to take care of our mental health.
Nutrition is more than what we eat
It also includes how we eat, where we eat, and who we eat with.
When possible, try to create stress busting eating environments.
- Eating while seated will help reduce stress and help with slowing down.
- Eating from a plate or a bowl rather than a take out container or big bag will help with satisfaction and fullness signals.
- Taking the time to chew will help with digestion and signal to the brain to slow down and calm down.
- Eat with others when possible. Eating with others creates a healthy and happy emotional and social connection with others while eating. It also keeps us from eating with distraction which can help us be in tune with our senses during meals and snacks to reduce stress.
So there you have it. We cannot remove stress in our life – we all recognize that by now. Stress is going to come in waves both big and small throughout our entire lives. We can manage stress by fostering healthy relationships, having a strong support network, moving for enjoyment and enjoying whole, real foods.
Enjoy the benefits of probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber in this Berry and Chia Yogurt Parfait!
Berry and Chia Yogurt Parfait
This is delicious gut healthy parfait is a perfect breakfast or snack!
- 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt Plain
- 1/2 tsp chia seeds
- 1/2 TBSP honey
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup granola I recommend using a low sugar, high fiber granola such as KIND, Purely Elizabeth or Bear Naked
- 1/4 cup berries I used frozen, but feel free to use what you have on hand!
Combine yogurt, chia, honey and cinnamon and whisk to combine.
Top with a layer of granola, followed by berries.
If desired, sprinkle a few slivered almonds on top for an extra crunch and heart healthy fats.