Healthful eating, along with the use of good, quality supplements and herbs can help improve mood and achieve balance. Dale Bellisfield shared this message with the 300-plus women attending the April 27 Women’s Wellness Forum at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino.
Bellisfield is a medical herbalist and national board-certified holistic registered nurse. She is one of the few professional members of the American Herbalists Guild, the only peer-reviewed credentialing organization for medical herbalists in the country.
Bellisfield currently has a private practice in Payson and Pine, and sees a variety of patients and conditions in her clinical work.
She enjoys being an advocate for holistic approaches, as she continues to teach and lecture on the use of herbs, supplements, therapeutic foods and lifestyle choices to both health care practitioners and the general public.
She made the following recommendations for healthful eating:
• Consume a diversity of foods in a rainbow of colors, choosing organic whenever possible.
• Minimize the number of carbohydrates — limit sweets, breads, cereal, pasta, potatoes, corn, rice and grains.
• Eat many, non-starchy vegetables, with between 30 and 50 percent of your choices eaten raw.
• Limit the fruits consumed to those with low fructose.
• Use healthy fats such as organic coconut, avocado, olive oil, butter, raw nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, eggs, full-fat dairy, safe fatty fish and healthy animals.
• Choose quality proteins including wild salmon, raw organic full-fat dairy, grass-fed organic/wild meat and poultry, nuts, seeds and beans.
Bellisfield also urged the consumption of live fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, full-fat plain yogurt and kefir; high fiber foods; and staying hydrated with water, tea, herb tea, coffee and unsweetened seltzer.
Foods and mood
Complex carbohydrates — fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet and wild rice — raise serotonin and tryptophan and these produce relaxation, a sense of well-being and promote sleep. She suggests eating them later in the day and keeping the grains to a minimum.
Meats, seafood, milk, dairy products, eggs, soy, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes increase alertness, mental speed and assertiveness.
Fatty fish (wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, krill, mackerel, herring), coconut, avocados, meat, dairy, olives, chocolate, purslane, eggs, nuts and seeds are crucial to body function, lowers inflammation and increases healthy gut bacteria.
Iron, magnesium and zinc can help with a variety of maladies: iron is good for depression and fatigue and works best with vitamin C-rich foods, find it in liver, oysters, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, beans, spinach and sesame seeds; magnesium helps with nerve and muscle impulse transmissions and muscle cramps, find it in seaweed, nuts, buckwheat, tofu, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, dandelion greens and garlic; zinc helps with immune function, wound healing, DNA and protein synthesis, cell division, find it in oysters, dark chocolate, lamb, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, mushrooms, lobster, pork, cashews, flax seeds, egg yolk, chickpeas and turkey.
While there are lots of vitamins to take for a variety of reasons, Bellisfield discussed two that are especially important to mood and health: the B complex, which is eight different B vitamins; and C.
B complex — depression, anxiety, fatigue, poor concentration and irritability are all signs of a B vitamin deficiency; the complex is critical to brain function and can be depleted by stress and alcohol; find the various vitamin Bs in dark leafy greens, milk, poultry, nuts, salmon, legumes, eggs, lentils, beans, asparagus, spinach, greens, broccoli, and brewer’s yeast.
Vitamin C — is significantly lower in those with depression; helps body absorb iron, makes collagen for joints, supports overall immune health; it can be depleted by aspirin, anti-depressants, smoking, alcohol, light, air and cooking; find it in guava, papaya, red bell peppers, raw broccoli, strawberries, oranges, kiwis, and cantaloupe.
Live Fermented Foods
Why live fermented foods? According to Bellisfield, we have three pounds of probiotics in our bodies, mostly in our gut and they are important for normal health and influence mood disorders and brain function. Fermented foods feed the probiotics and help them function more effectively and efficiently. She recommends these: yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, kefir, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, cheese, tempeh, kvass, and fish sauce.
There are few “extras” that are good for health: dark or raw chocolate enhances feelings of well-being, improves mood and reduces anxiety; two to three cups of regular coffee each day reduces the risk of suicide by 50 percent, according to a 2013 report in Psychiatric Times; tea, especially green or matcha, reduces anxiety and benefits memory, attention and brain function; curry with turmeric and other spices has many anti-depressant effects, is an anti-inflammatory and stimulates new brain cells.
Bellisfield said the reason supplements are needed is because often our diets don’t provide the recommended levels of vitamins, etc.
Before starting a regime of supplements, know your sources, know the proper dose and know the possible side effects and drug interactions.