Did you know that food choices affect your physical, mental, and emotional health? What you eat quite literally becomes a part of you and how your body functions from day to day. So, you might be asking about how food helps mental health and if CBD can help support mental and emotional balance.
The connection between food, CBD, and emotional wellness is complex. It requires us to have conversations about emotional eating and mental health. However, there are simple strategies you can implement today to promote overall emotional wellness.
Read on for what the science says about food and emotional health. Plus, get tips you can try today on using CBD to promote balance for your body.
What Is Emotional Eating?
There's an entire category of food called "comfort food" to prove what we already know: food can help you cope with your feelings. Beyond providing fuel, food is often used to fill an emotional need.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if we allow poor mental health to trigger unhealthy eating behaviors. Sadness, excitement, stress, and even happy times can cause shifts in our eating habits and emotions.
Mindless vs. Mindful Eating
The major difference between healthy emotional eating and unhealthy emotional eating is where your mind is at. In unhealthy states, emotions can drive unconscious or mindless eating habits. Eating is then used not to fulfill hunger, but to distract or fill a void for temporary satisfaction.
As time passes, the problem still remains. You'll find that food was used as a bandaid rather than to address the root cause. That's emotional eating.
Food And Mental Health Connection
When it comes to the connection between food and mental health, dietitian Leigh Merotto said it best: "When one is compromised, it is likely that the other is as well."
Food and nutrition play an important role in overall emotional wellness. Our appetite responds to shifts in emotion, which can eventually impact our overall nutrient intake.
How Nutrients Support Mental Health
Nutrients fuel our bodies in many ways. However when it comes to mental health and emotional wellness, they have two specific roles to fulfill in order to help promote balance:
- Brain Health- The brain helps direct other activities that go on in the body. Emotions and movement stem from messages in the brain. Getting enough nutrients prevents damage to the brain, which can cause serious symptoms like memory loss.
- Neurotransmitter Health- Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients help build balance among brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). These chemicals are also vital in relaying messages and keeping the brain healthy and working optimally.
You might have heard of some of the important neurotransmitters in your body, such as serotonin, dopamine, or endorphins. Chemical messengers help promote the following feelings in the body and add to an overall sense of balance:
When your body gets sufficient nutrients, chemical functions are supported in their roles. The body feels a sense of balance, and ultimately depression, anxiety, stress, and even sleep problems can lessen.
How does this happen? The short story is that food that is healthy for your individual body is broken down into pieces during digestion. These pieces are then used to build the neurotransmitters and support them in working properly.
In other words, proper nutrition leads to balanced brain health.
Foods To Eat For Emotional Health
It can be hard to prioritize health practices, so here are a couple practical options to add to your diet today for better mental and emotional balance.
Protein, Especially Plant-Based Foods & Lean Meats
You've probably heard about proteins and amino acids being the building blocks in our bodies. They are, and that is true for many components of the body that are important to the brain, such as hormones and enzymes.
Protein foods, especially lean protein and plant-based protein, are excellent sources of much needed vitamins and minerals. Including a protein-rich food with every meal and snack promotes a feeling of fullness that can help curb cravings and give you better control of your appetite.
Here are some options for healthy protein to eat throughout the day:
- Skinless Poultry (i.e. turkey or chicken)
- Low-fat dairy
- Yogurt or Greek yogurt
- Unsalted nuts (i.e. almonds, pistachios, cashews)
- Nut butters (preferably homemade or minimally processed)
- Seeds or seed butters
- Whole grains
Vitamins In The B Family
B vitamins, like folate, B12, and B6, are especially important to metabolism and energy. They also play vital roles in regulating sleep and stress responses.
A lot of B vitamins, like pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) are readily available in the foods we eat. However, it is important to make sure you aren't deficient as these vitamins help support positive feelings and helpful emotional responses. Recent research even suggests that a deficiency of certain B vitamins can increase the incidence of depression.
Where can you find B vitamins? Try adding some of the following foods to your dietary pattern:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy green vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Lean meats (listed above)
Vegans ,vegetarians, and other vulnerable populations may need to supplement with B12 or a B-complex vitamin to get enough vitamins from the B-family. It depends on your individual needs, so be sure to raise any concerns with your doctor and dietitian so that your healthcare team can propose the proper, personalized treatment plan.
"Healthy" fats are essential. Literally, they are called "essential fatty acids" because our body cannot produce them without the help of healthy fat foods in our diet.
Fats help structure the brain, support chemical messaging in the body, and are a vital part of hormone function. Many people don't get enough of a specific fat called omega-3, which is anti-inflammatory.
Some of the best sources of these "healthy" fats and omega-3s include:
- Fatty fish (i.e. herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout)
- Fortified foods (i.e. eggs)
- Ground flaxseed
- Hemp hearts
- Nuts or nut butters
- Seeds (i.e. chia seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Vegetable and plant oils (i.e. flaxseed oil, walnut oil, canola oil, soybean oil)
The gut is also commonly called "the second brain." Can you guess why?
Yup, you got it. Gut health is intricately tied to brain communication. Our gut houses a unique bacterial environment called the microbiome, and the gut is also where more than 90% of our serotonin (the "happy hormone") is produced.
A healthy microbiome basically means that your intestinal tract is in balance. That's also good news for brain health since what you eat and what's going on in your microbiome can influence what you experience mentally and emotionally.
Fermented foods often contain a host of "good" bacteria that can improve your gut microbiome. Explore more of the following foods:
Fermented Dairy Foods
- Aged cheeses
Fermented Non-Dairy Foods
Can CBD Promote Balance?
Is CBD effective for reducing anxiety and other mental health disorders? According to research, we don't entirely know yet what the potential mechanism tying CBD to mental health is.
However, recent reports indicate that approximately 15-35% of CBD users use CBD products for anxiety, and almost 50% of people surveyed report using it for anxiety and stress. Additionally, 26% of users report taking CBD for depression and another 8% for mental health conditions.
Keep in mind that these are reports of how people claim to use CBD and are not specific reasons you should use CBD personally. We can't link CBD to any specific results or evidence due to federal regulations, but what we can say is that CBD may help to improve mood, balance, and relaxation.
Results can vary from person to person, so it is crucial that you consult knowledgeable healthcare professionals if you're interested in taking CBD for mental health reasons. Pairing CBD with other helpful health practices is the best way to promote balance.
Overall health, including the elements of mental and emotional wellness, is a holistic effort. This means that CBD may be one part of a bigger holistic healing journey but isn't a "cure" on its own. The following health practices may help you feel a better sense of balance as you incorporate CBD into your daily routine.
Address Potential Triggers
One way to help shift emotional eating from problematic to productive is to address potential triggers. Food can be an unhealthy way to cope if it is the only way you know how to cope with difficult situations.
Instead, incorporating CBD into your diet or supplement regimen may help you to feel a sense of calm, relaxation, and balance as you go about addressing stressors, identifying triggers, and ultimately changing your behavior.
Some potential triggers to look into include:
- Contention (i.e fighting with a spouse, partner, friend, or family member)
- Poor performance (i.e. failing to complete a task, getting a bad grade at school)
- Upcoming Deadlines (i.e. work project, personal goals)
The key isn't to get rid of the stressors or triggers, just to find alternative ways to cope with stress that aren't eating. For example, taking a walk outside for five minutes or rinsing off in the shower after a long day can help you decompress instead of using food to fill a void. Plus, both of those options are hygiene or health-promoting!
Some people thrive on three meals a day while others need six to eight smaller meals to function optimally. Decide what is best for you by visiting a dietitian. A practitioner familiar with cannabis can also assist you in pairing CBD with foods that can increase bioavailability of certain nutrients you may be deficient in.
Mindful eating has been in headlines recently, and for a good reason. Thoughtfully experiencing a meal can even be considered meditation. Mindful eating, chewing, and enjoying a meal help slow digestion and may offer a moment of relief from the stresses of the day.
In short, don't tackle tasks during mealtime. Savor the meal and the moment!
Pair CBD With Stress-Reducing Foods
Did you know that CBD can be combined with stress reducing foods? It's best to combine CBD with cold foods, because heat can destroy some of the potential benefits. You've probably seen CBD-infused products on the market already, so here is your sign to try them!
For some individuals, the potential benefits of CBD happen when oil or edibles are part of foods they already enjoy. Any of the foods listed above, such as nuts, seeds, and omega-3s, can be combined (in their cool temperature forms) with CBD oil for a delicious meal or snack.
Other foods that reduce help balance cortisol (stress hormone) levels include:
- High-quality, fiber-rich carbohydrates or "carbs" - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, ancient grains, legumes, beans, peas, lentils
- Magnesium-rich foods- avocado, black beans, dark chocolate (look for low levels of added sugar), dark leafy greens, quinoa
- Probiotic-rich foods- miso, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt
Focus On The "Why"
When you feel overwhelmed and inclined to eat because of your emotions, take a second to ask yourself a one-word question: "Why?" Count to 10 and let your mind be clear for a quick moment in time.
This simple practice can give you a much needed moment to make a significant mindset shift. It can help you recognize when you are bored, sad, or just plain thirsty instead of actually hungry!
Remember, it is okay if food is the answer. Your "why" might be "because I'm hungry!" This practice simply gives you a chance to rethink your options and recognize if you're just using food to cope with something bigger than what's on your plate.
See An Expert For Individual Results
As with any other diet or CBD advice on our website, we highly recommend you consult with a qualified healthcare team. Talking with an expert can help you find the right amount of CBD to try. It can also help you address specific symptoms or conditions, like ADHD or depression.
Research is still ongoing when it comes to CBD, diet, and emotional or mental health. Instead of being overwhelmed by all that is out there, remember that these experts are doing their best to stay on top of the latest research.
Visit your healthcare provider to inquire further about your best options when it comes to diet, CBD, and overall health. The Hemplucid team of experts strongly recommends finding adding the following qualified specialists to your team if you struggle with emotional eating:
- Behavioral therapist
- Cannabis-literate practitioner
- Integrative medicine doctor
A Final Word On CBD & Eating For Emotional Health
While emotional eating has many dimensions to it, incorporating positive practices for overall balance can be easy. The potential benefits of CBD work best when they are combined with other healthy practices. Many of the mental health-promoting foods listed in this article can be combined with CBD and may help you maintain a more positive outlook on life.
Don't know which CBD product to start with?
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Martin C. Your Ultimate Anti-Stress Diet: Foods That Reduce Cortisol. Shapedbycharlotte.com. Published July 22, 2020.
Medical Cannabis Network. Patients are turning from big pharma to CBD for mental health disorders. Healtheuropa.eu. Published November 28, 2019.
Merotto L. Food & Mood: Nutrition and Mental Health. Leighmerotto.com. Published June 30, 2019.
Shiffer E. 17 Practical Ways to Stop Emotional Eating, According to Nutritionists. Eatthis.com. Published January 14, 2020.
SingleCare Team. The 2020 CBD Survey. Singlecare.com. Published April 20, 2020.