This carrot cake yogurt packs a punch with Greek yogurt that’s filled with gut-loving probiotics, fiber-rich carrots and walnuts and flax that bring omega-3s to the party.

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May. It’s the month of flowers, spring showers and the maypole. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. This month spotlights the importance of focusing on the many factors that can sponsor better mental health. While a multitude of diagnoses fall under the umbrella of mental health, certain foods and their nutrients have been found to contribute to positivity and mood elevation.

A cliché to be sure: our food is our mood. Steering clear of ultra-processed foods in favor of healthier ones may be helpful for those of us who suffer from anxiety or depression, clinically diagnosed or otherwise.

The Fads

Fad diets have been all over the board. Dr. Atkin’s ‘90s regime focused on the too-good-to-be-true weight loss approach of eating saturated fat and lots of it. The South Beach Diet deprived us of carrots (carrots!!!). Most of these diets take away one food group only to focus on others (thereby bringing our focus solely to the food group we’ve been denied).

“Going Keto” holds the same ring that “going vegan” once did. It’s a trendy diet that many have adopted in the name of weight loss. Restaurants and food companies are all too happy to offer keto options or have named themselves keto-friendly.

We’ve discussed the roots of keto here before; it was a diet offered as a short-term solution for kids who suffered from epilepsy. It gave them good results. They suffered fewer seizures and had a better quality of life, but no one knew exactly why this low-carb, high-fat regime did that. As it limits fruits, veggies and grains, epileptic children on the ketogenic diet are carefully monitored for nutritional deficiencies.

All fad diets work. For a while. Until they don’t. You know my stance. Eat real food and limit the rest. The American Heart Association has recently weighed in on which diets are the healthiest, scoring them according to their heart-healthy elements and have acknowledged how confusing eating heart-healthy can be.

The factors the association took into consideration in its evaluation included blood glucose, cholesterol and other lipids, blood pressure and body weight — all of which are indicators of metabolic and cardiovascular health. It focused on heart healthy regimes rather than specifically on weight loss.

The top two regimes that were found to be most heart-healthy were the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet. Both DASH and the Mediterranean diets are more of a lifestyle and are therefore more sustainable. While DASH limits sodium and alcohol, the Mediterranean diet allows (and even promotes) wine as part of meals, focusing on the benefit of polyphenols like resveratrol in red wine. Bringing with it a European vibe, the Mediterranean diet focuses mainly on seafood, whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fats.

When it comes to food and our mood, the Mediterranean diet has been said to help. In 2017, a study whose acronym is aptly “SMILES” (Supporting the Modification of Lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States) showed that clinically depressed participants who changed their diets experienced positive effects on their moods. Subjects who followed a modified Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks experienced remission from their depression and even became less anxious. The crazy thing is that they didn’t just feel a little bit better — they were no longer depressed! JUST THROUGH FOOD!

One key factor here is to get these nutrients from food. We don’t assimilate synthetic vitamins and minerals as well as we do by eating them in our diet, so taking a handful of pills will likely not have the same effect on us that real food will!

B vitamins, especially B12, have been connected with enhanced mood. Seafood, specifically shellfish like clams and oysters, are great sources of B12. The Mediterranean diet is chock-full of leafy greens and brightly colored fruits and veggies. Healthy fats like olive oil and avocado and seafood are on the Mediterranean menu. Even a little dark chocolate is said to help our mood by way of polyphenols called flavonoids.

Gut feelings

Our gut has been deemed our second brain. When you think about the fact that the majority of our serotonin is produced there, it’s a no-brainer (or second brainer,) that our mood is related to the health of our gut. Taking care of our gut flora and good bacteria is essential for overall health, and mental health is no exception.

Focus on fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha to enhance good gut health! Our good gut bugs need to be fed and fiber is one way to do that. Prebiotic fiber aids the work that probiotics do, so adding fibrous foods and foods like ground flax is helpful in settling the gut.

Mental health and psychiatric conditions should not be taken lightly. Unless allergic to specific foods or suffering from certain health conditions, making positive dietary changes will do nothing but help your overall physical and mental health. Never change medications without the advice of your physician.

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This yogurt concoction packs a punch with Greek yogurt that’s filled with gut-loving probiotics, fiber-rich carrots and walnuts and flax that bring omega-3s to the party.

Carrot cake yogurt


• 1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt

• 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds

• 1 teaspoon maple syrup

• ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (or less, depends on taste)

• 1 shake of cinnamon

• ¼ cup thinly grated carrot

• Dried coconut shavings

• Walnuts

• Raisins (optional)


Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Katharine A. Jameson, a certified nutrition counselor who grew up in Williamsville and Townshend, writes about food and health for Vermont News & Media. Find her on Instagram: @foodforthoughtwithkat