More and more people are turning towards vegetarian, vegan diets and low protein diets. This can lead to gross protein and fat deficiencies which greatly can impact mental health and well-being. Without these key nutrients:
- The body is unable to operate the brain and nervous system adequately.
- People will quickly begin to complain of symptoms such as low energy, mood swings, lack of motivation, and insomnia.
- We are unable to create neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA, and dopamine, which have key roles in modulating our moods. When our neurotransmitters are in balance, we feel happy, motivated, sleep well, and are less likely to experience chronic pain.
- Imbalances in neurotransmitters can impact hormone levels.
- Women will be more likely to experience hormonal disturbances such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and menopausal symptoms. Conventional medicine regularly treats these hormonal disturbances with anti-depressants that increase serotonin levels (SSRIs).
- A lack of animal protein can also lead to nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D. When these nutrients are insufficient, people are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, low energy, insomnia etc.
- If you are vegetarian, vegan, or have a low protein diet, your ND, MD, or Nurse Practitioner should periodically screen these nutrients via blood work. Deficiencies should be corrected by improving nutrition, as well as supplementing with the correct forms of these nutrients. As a naturopathic doctor, I am skilled at guiding you through this process.
Now that we understand how important protein and fats are, how can we increase these nutrients in our diet?
- Ensure an adequate serving of protein at EACH meal. The Harvard Food Guide as well as the newly updated Canadian Food Guide, recommend that a quarter of each meal should consist of protein.
- Daily protein intake should be approximately 0.8-1.0 g per kg body weight (e.g. a 70kg person would need to consume about 56-70g of protein per day).
- In some instances, the requirement may be higher, such as in athletes, vegetarians, vegans and during pregnancy and lactation.
- A knowledgeable naturopathic doctor can guide you to ensure you are meeting your body’s protein requirements.
- Protein sources include:
- Beans/lentils/chickpeas etc.
- Dairy products such as Greek yogurt
- Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and edamame
- Fish & shellfish
- Poultry such as chicken and turkey
- Red meat such as beef & pork
- If you are choosing plant-based sources, you will need to be particularly conscientious, to ensure adequate portions because of the relatively low protein content per gram of foods.
- For example, to obtain 20g of protein, you will need approximately 4-5 Tbsps of nuts to make up the equivalent protein content in a serving of chicken.
- The brain is largely made up of fat and requires a dietary intake to maintain optimal function
- Hormone production relies on adequate sources of cholesterol. If you restrict fat in your diet, you will see a sharp decline in hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone which, can contribute to depression, anxiety, low sex drive, and lack of motivation. This highlights how healthy fats are key to mental health and well-being and should not be restricted nor avoided.
- Consume approximately 1-2 tbsps of a healthy fat per meal as a simple rule of thumb.
- Healthy fat sources include:
- Olive oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Fish and cod liver oil
- Omega 3 supplements
It is my desire to inspire individuals to take steps to improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing using simple and sustainable strategies. If you implement some of these nutrition strategies, please connect with me, update me on your progress! You can reach me at [email protected] . If you are ready to look at your health more deeply, book an appointment with me. You can do so directly through my website drlisatnd.com . Initial visits are 60-75 mins in length and are $180. Visits with a naturopathic doctor are frequently covered fully or partially by extended health care plans. You can also access the directory of practitioners at my clinic which include osteopathic manual therapy, registered massage therapy, lymphatic drainage, etc. Simply Healthy, Simply Strong is located at 217 Main St West, in Hamilton, ON. There is parking available and we are close to a bus stop.
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Connect with other holistically minded practitioners!
Building communities online is important in these times and I value having locally like-minded practitioners! Local practitioners that I recommend:
Psychotherapist: Aleysa Courtnage P: 289 439 7503 w: https://www.acourtnage.com/
Social Work and Mediator: Stacey Leger : P: 519 770 9969 w: https://exhaletherapies.ca/