Five Most Important Foods to Improve Caregiver Emotional Health
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Food is fuel. It is also nutrition, energy, and a mood stabilizer. If you are a caregiver, food can help prevent caregiver burnout by improving your health. Eating nutritious foods can lift your mood, increase your energy levels and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The first step to improve and sustain caregiver emotional health is to avoid fast food and highly processed foods. These items have little nutritional value and the high levels of fat and sodium, which can have a negative impact on one’s health and overall well-being. It is better to eat whole, fresh foods and to prepare your own meals as frequently as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cook complicated dishes. In fact, some of these foods can be eaten as easy-to-make salads.

The 5 most important foods to support caregiver emotional health

1. Fish, especially fatty fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids supply the brain with the healthy fats that it needs to function. The brain is made up of large stores of fat and our bodies don’t naturally manufacture enough of it. Eating omega-3s help support the levels of fat that the brain needs to operate.

Fatty fish also supports the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for our moods as well as the synapses in our brains that improve learning and memory. Types of fatty fish include salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. A salmon salad is a great way to get a strong dose of Omega-3s.

2. Whole Grains.

Whole grains are great for the brain because they supply it with glucose. Whole grains also help you to feel full and avoid the energy highs and lows that come from eating simple carbohydrates like white bread, rice, and pasta. Complex carbohydrates come from whole grains such as:

  • whole-wheat products
  • bulgar
  • wild rice
  • barley
  • beans
  • soy
  • oats

Eating oatmeal in the morning can make you feel good and will help you stay full longer. Use whole wheat bread for a sandwich or make a salad using wild rice or bulgar.

3. Lean Protein.

Our bodies use protein for many things like strong bones and a healthy nervous system. The chemicals and transmitters that allow the nervous system to communicate effectively with other organs in the body depend on the consumption of protein. One of the elements of protein, the amino acid tryptophan, influences our moods by producing serotonin. Lean protein plays an important role in keeping serotonin levels at a healthy balance. Lean protein includes:

  • Fish
  • turkey
  • eggs
  • beans=
  • chicken

4. Leafy greens.

Romaine lettuce, turnips, broccoli, spinach, beets, and lentils are all considered leafy greens. The folates and vitamin B in leafy greens can help to reduce depression and fatigue, and help you sleep better. You can use romaine lettuce and spinach as the base of a salad and top it with cooked barley and your choice of lean protein for a power-packed high nutrition salad.

5. Yogurt.

Not just any yogurt will do; choose yogurt with active cultures to feed your brain. Look for yogurt that states “active cultures” on the label like kefir, kimchi, and tempeh. Yogurt also puts healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract to help it digest food properly. Active cultures improve neurotransmitters in the body and as a result can reduce anxiety and stress hormones.

Eating these types of foods will help you to feel better and have more energy. That’s important to avoid caregiver burnout. Treat yourself by buying the freshest foods you can find, and select organic if possible. The flavors will improve your appetite and your body will feel nourished and stronger.

Seared Salmon with Mango Lime Salsa Recipe

If you’re looking for a mood-boosting meal, try this seared salmon and mango lime salsa recipe! Salmon is a very versatile, popular fish. Purchase “wild” over “farm raised” as it is worth it to pay that extra couple of dollars per pound for wild salmon’s superior nutritional benefits. Unfortunately, farm-raised salmon is not fed its natural diet, so the fish has less of the good nutrients associated with salmon, such omega-3 fatty acids and beta carotene. Salmon farms also have a negative impact on the environment. Use salmon filets with the skin still attached so that the fish will hold together during the cooking process.

Top this salmon with a fragrant mango salsa. It provides a fruity addition to fish or chicken and you can make it up to 6 hours ahead of time. Use the Ataulfo or Champagne mangoes, which are typically sweeter and less fibrous, than regular mangoes (aka Tommy Atkins mangoes). A little bit of jalapeno adds some heat and well as increases the vitamin C content of this tasty condiment.

Difficulty Easy

Prep Time 30 minutes

Cooking Time 10 minutes

Yield 4 servings

Ingredients for Salmon

2 each 5 oz salmon filets

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp avocado or vegetable oil

4 lime wedges

Ingredients for Mango Salsa

½ cup mango (diced into small pieces, about ¼ of an inch)

¼ cup cilantro leaves (roughly chopped)

Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tsp)

1 green onion (thinly sliced)

sea salt and pepper to taste

¼ tsp cumin

¼ each jalapeno (optional, finely diced finely)

Preparation for Mango Salsa

  1. Combine the above ingredients
  2. Serve within 6 hours of making the salsa

Preparation for the Salmon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium oven-proof skillet over high heat.
  3. Cook salmon skin side up for 3 minutes, or until it has a light brown crust. Turn over the salmon and turn off the heat.
  4. Place the pan with the salmon in the oven and cook for ten minutes or until the salmon is cooked through.
  5. Divide the salmon onto two plates and top with the mango salsa. Garnish each plate with 2 lime wedges.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 4.0

Amount Per Serving

calories 176

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 9 g

14 %

Saturated Fat 0 g

2 %

Monounsaturated Fat 3 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g

Trans Fat 0 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

0 %

Sodium 296 mg

12 %

Potassium 64 mg

2 %

Total Carbohydrate 5 g

2 %

Dietary Fiber 1 g

3 %

Sugars 3 g

Protein 18 g

36 %

Vitamin A

13 %

Vitamin C

16 %


4 %


1 %

* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

For more information regarding seafood quality, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and look under “Seafood Watch”, or download the Seafood Watch iPhone app or Seafood Watch Android app.

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About the Author(s)

Leslie Myers is a culinary professional with over thirty years of experience including healthy eating and cooking specialist, culinary instructor, restaurant owner and operator, caterer, operations manager, pastry chef, raw foods chef and culinary instructor. She is the owner of Foodsense, Now, a Solana Beach-based company which focuses on healthy eating for athletes. She is also the Professional Chef for Home Care Assistance, where she creates delicious recipes that promote brain health and healthy longevity and are appropriate for the changing dietary needs of seniors.

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