“Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” – Hippocrates
I adopted Hippocrates’ understanding of food many years ago and the older I get (because wisdom comes with age, right?) it has become a truth I can’t deny. If you know my story, you know that I have been able to overcome some big health issues by changing my diet and lifestyle. I believe that God created food for the purpose of nourishing our bodies, not just to live but to thrive, because He has a purpose for each one of us.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been dealing with a very difficult personal matter. Endurance through this season has played a toll on my body. Thankfully, I was in good health to start, otherwise, I would be in much worse shape. My biggest issue has been stress – physical, emotional, mental – and my body has been responding with depression. There are days that I just cannot “pull myself out of it”. It’s a scary feeling when you want to feel one way but your body and mind won’t agree.
I have recently experienced one of these depressed episodes, I say “episodes” because I can often tell when the depression is coming on and when it’s released. As I am learning more about how my body is responding to this stress, I am choosing to react in two ways: first, I want to help heal my body through healthy food choices and second, I cling to my faith to strengthen and sustain me through each occurrence. Let me quickly add a disclaimer that my story and what I do does not guarantee results for anyone else. Depression is a real experience and every person and his/her situation is unique. Food isn’t the golden key to healing, as pharmaceuticals do have a place and a purpose, but food can be a great instrument in the healing process. I simply want to share with you what I am learning to offer hope to anyone who may want to explore healing through food as an option.
Clinical studies show that depression has a biochemical component as much as a psychological one, and that there is, most likely, an interaction between the two. Changes taking place in the brain are strongly affected by our physical, emotional, and mental stresses, which contribute to this disturbance of depression.
So what is my body telling me? Eat Sugar! Yep, the first thing I crave in this crazy emotional state is carbs like pretzels and chips (something about the crunchiness just makes my mouth happy) and anything sweet (chocolate, ice cream, sweet beverages). Why? Well, this is the fight-or-flight response of my adrenals. They can’t handle the stress, so they’re telling my body to do something to elevate my insulin levels in order to provide that “feel good” response that I need as a substitution for what they can’t do. The problem is that the insulin doesn’t stay elevated long. As soon as that level goes down, I’m back to craving sugar again. It’s a vicious cycle which actually harms my body in the long run. We are not supposed to be in the fight-or-flight response long term.
What did I do about it? I referenced one of my favorite books, “The Medicinal Chef” by Dale Pinnock. Dale takes difficult health issues and correlates foods that help to nourish and bring healing to that condition or issue. I was quickly reminded of several things:
- Eat proteins and carbs together at each meal. This would be complex carbs such as whole grains, quinoa or brown rice. The protein and complex carbs in combination will allow my body to digest the food more slowly and, thus, release the insulin at a stable pace.
- Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. Again, this helps the insulin levels in the blood to stay at a stable level without the big roller-coaster like spikes and drops.
- Eat Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s) from foods like oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), avocados, eggs and coconut oil.
- Increase B vitamins. These essential nutrients help with brain function and allow the neurotransmitters in the brain to thrive. Brown rice, quinoa, mushrooms, asparagus, eggs, and yeast extract are all examples of foods that are high in B vitamins.
Off to the kitchen!
It was time for breakfast. If I was going to make it through the day, then I wanted to start with the right foods to fuel me. Searching for inspiration from the book in hand I created The Herbed Mediterranean Scramble (lightly adapted from The Medicinal Chef).
Let’s take a look at the ingredients I chose:
By cooking with coconut oil, I have added a “healthy fat” that is great for the digestive system. Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, which is good for your heart health and circulation. Garlic is also good for your heart and helps to boost your immune system. The fresh herbs contain vitamin C, antioxidants, and essential oils which are great for the digestive system. The free-range eggs, themselves, are the perfect start to the day because they are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s) and B vitamins. A protein source that is 100% usable ensures energy for my morning.
When our bodies and brains are well fed with nutrition packed food, we feel better overall and more capable to face the stresses that life throws at us.
As I sat down to eat I subconsciously said “Bye, bye blues…hello, breakfast”.