Goodness, y'all. If 2020 hasn't driven any other point home—and we all know, there are a billion and one to ponder—it's the fact that now, more than ever, we've got to do all that we can to proactively care for our mental health and well-being. This includes seeing our physician if we're not feeling well. This includes making an appointment to speak with a reputable therapist, counselor or life coach, if we need some help working through some things. This means taking some time off of social media and turning off our phones so that we can take a break from all of the "noise" that is constantly around us. This means making pampering and chilling out top priorities. This means finding inner peace. You know what else? This also means practicing watching our diet. No joke.
One day, I'll have to get into how certain foods can actually affect your mental health in negative ways (checking out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone" is a good starting point). But today, for now, let's look at 10 foods that are actually proven to improve your mental stability and longevity. Because, in times like these, we all can use every ounce of help that we can get…right? Amen.
It really is important to eat fruits and veggies when they're in season; that way, you can get the most nutrients out of 'em. That said, when it comes to blackberries, the best time of year to consume them is between the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn. If you wait until then to cop some, you'll end up with berries that are packed with vitamins C and K, fiber and manganese, along with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help to support oral health and strong bones. Something else that blackberries contain is anthocyanins; these are natural compounds that fight to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
The reason why you should consider eating blackberries to improve your mental health is because anthocyanins also help to keep free radicals from damaging your brain cells in a way that could ultimately lead to memory loss. Also, thanks to the fruit's anti-inflammatory properties, blackberries can reduce brain inflammation that could possibly lead to long-term cognitive decline.
One of my favorite meats is definitely lamb. I mean, give me some lamb chops and you've got a fan for life! Anyway, aside from being high in protein, lamb is also a good source of omega-3 and 6, along with vitamins B12 and B3, zinc and selenium. All of these point to this kind of meat providing quite a few health benefits. For instance, lamb is high in heme iron (a type of iron that is easily absorbed into your bloodstream); creatine (an organic compound that creates muscle mass); glutathione (which is a big time antioxidant), and Linoleic Acid (LA) which is an acid that can actually reduce your chances of having a heart attack. In fact, lamb contains more LA than any other meat does.
Lamb is dope when it comes to your mental health because it's also considered to be a dopamine-rich type of food. Dopamine helps to get you in a better mood, improves your memory, counteracts depression and can even make you less impulsive.
The tiny veggie trees known as broccoli are good for you for a myriad of reasons. Broccoli has protein, fiber, a ton of vitamins C and K, folate and Vitamin A in it. The antioxidants in broccoli help to fight off free radicals; the bioactive compounds it contains reduces bodily inflammation; its fiber decreases the chances of constipation; its bioactive compound sulforaphane helps to slow down the signs of aging, and the Vitamin C that's in broccoli will keep your immune system healthy and strong.
Another compound that broccoli has in it is kaempferol. There are studies to support that it's effective at reducing the inflammation of neural tissue. Plus, its other bioactive compounds are able to support healthy brain function too.
4. Shiitake Mushrooms
Although I'm not a vegetarian (or vegan), whenever I'm in the mood to go for a meat alternative, believe it or not, I typically reach for mushrooms. To me, they have a "meat-like texture" to them without all of the preservatives that a lot of "fake meat" contains. When it comes to mushrooms that are super healthy, you can't do much better than shiitake ones. They contain a fair amount of protein and fiber, but where these mushrooms really shine is the fact that they're high in copper and Vitamin B5. Plus, they contain compounds that will lower your cholesterol levels and boost your immune system, and they contain antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties that can reduce viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.
Shiitake mushrooms also have a good amount of zinc in them. This is great to know because zinc is a mineral that is scientifically proven to reduce depression-related symptoms while calming your nerves so that you're less anxious.
5. Swiss Chard
When the topic of dark leafy greens comes up, oftentimes it's ones like kale or spinach that immediately come to mind. But if you want to add some variety to your greens-eating collection, be sure to get some swiss chard into the mix. For starters, it's high in fiber. But what's really mind-blowing is swiss chard contains a whopping 716 percent of the Vitamin K that your system needs on a daily basis and 214 percent of the Vitamin A that you need as well (not to mention that it contains magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron and copper too). Swiss chard is also high in antioxidants that can help to protect your heart, lower your blood sugar levels and keep your weight in balance.
Thanks to the magnesium that's in this particular green vegetable, swiss chard can help to speed up the healing process of a migraine, put you into a better mood and, there are even studies that reveal magnesium can help to treat certain neurological disorders as well.
Maca is a medicinal root from Peru. Over the past several years, it's become all the rage because it also provides loads of health benefits. Maca offers 133 percent of the daily amount of Vitamin C that your body needs. Maca also contains 85 percent of the daily copper that your system requires too. It contains a pretty impressive amount of fiber and protein, along with a good amount of iron, potassium and Vitamin B6. If you're looking for something that will boost your libido, improve your partner's sperm quality or relieve menopausal symptoms, maca's totally got your back. Some athletes also take maca in supplement form in order to boost their endurance.
If you're feeling a little stressed out, getting some maca into your system might be just what your body desires. That's because another benefit of maca—whether in supplement or powder form—is it also helps to reduce anxiety and depression-related symptoms; this is, in part, due to the flavonoids that are in it.
C'mon. Is there anything better than a piece of grilled salmon and rice, a salmon caesar salad or some fresh salmon sushi? Aside from how delicious these meals are, salmon has omega-3 fatty acids to lower your blood pressure and give you a boost of energy; vitamins A, D, E and K to support your bone and eye health; B vitamins to level out your cortisol levels, and fatty acids to lubricate your joints and also keep your skin healthy and radiant.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon are really good for your mental health because they can help to elevate your memory retention. Plus, those acids, combined with the Vitamin D that is also in this type of fish, can help to give you a boost of energy and feelings of positivity on the days when you are feeling a little on the low side.
8. Brown Rice
Brown rice is a whole grain. Off top, that makes it a food that is good for your overall health and well-being. It's got fiber, protein and a ton of manganese (81 percent of your reference daily intake). Brown rice also contains selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins B1, B3 and B6. Since this is the kind of whole grain that also has phytic acid and polyphenols in it, brown rice can lower your blood sugar. The selenium in it can help to prevent your arteries from clogging up and its fiber amount can help to keep you regular and toxin-free.
Brown rice does your brain a world of good because it's also got the natural compound Gamma-Aminobutyric (GABA) acid in it. It's kind of a long story but, basically what GABA does is help to slow down the neurons in your brain so that you don't feel as upset, worried or anxious as you would if they were running full throttle. The more you know, y'all.
9. Seeds and Nuts
Do you like to snack on seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds or nuts like almonds, cashews or peanuts? If so, good for you. Whether you realize it or not, when you eat seeds and nuts like these, your body is getting a good dose of monounsaturated fats (which decreases your chances of having heart disease or type 2 diabetes), zero dietary cholesterol, lots of fiber, plenty of antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals like vitamins B6 and E, folate, magnesium, calcium, zinc, copper, selenium and plant iron.
Something else that both seeds and nuts have an abundance of is serotonin. This is good to know because it's a natural neurotransmitter in your body that regulates your moods, your sleeping patterns, your libido and your appetite. When serotonin is flowing throughout your body, your mental health and well-being is better in every way.
Cinnamon is a must-have spice for any woman. It maintains vaginal health. It's a great aphrodisiac. It contains strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It lowers the amount of bad cholesterol that's in your system. Cinnamon also has the ability to reduce the amount of insulin resistance that's in your body. It fights viral and bacterial infections. There are even studies which reveal that cinnamon slows down the growth of HIV cells.
As far as your brain goes, not only does cinnamon fight to stifle the build-up of tau (a protein that can eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease), whether you smell it or consume it, cinnamon is a spice that increases cognitive function and memory. So, whether you decide to sprinkle it on a favorite drink or bake with it, make sure to add cinnamon more to your diet. Your mental health will thank you for it in so many different ways!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo courtesy of Tamara Taylor
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
Feature image courtesy of Tamara Taylor