Amy Shapiro, Nutritionist and Founder of Real Nutrition, on Finding Foods that Help with Mental Health and Wellness, and the Importance of Prebiotics and Probiotics

1. In your words, who are you?

I am a Mom, Sister, Friend, Wife and Registered Dietitian with a private practice called Real Nutrition based in NYC, a NYC “lifer” raising 3 kids downtown and am all about health, wellness and active living, and I love cooking, walking, farmers markets, mom and pop health food stores and my new Puppy Hershey. Yes, she’s named after the chocolate bar because who doesn’t love chocolate?

2. How would you define your approach as a nutritionist? 

It’s all about real food, real life and real solutions.  I work with my clients to teach them how to eat in a way that meets their desired goals but also fits into their life.  This allows for optimal nutrition but also long term success. Education is a big part of it, as is consistency.  We focus on whole foods, lots of plants and limiting processed foods. We also emphasize the importance of always having a plan.  

3. More specifically, do you believe there are certain foods that increase overall mental wellbeing?

Yes, I believe keeping your blood sugar balanced helps with mental well-being and therefore a high fiber, heart healthy diet full of omega 3 fatty acids and lots of plants with antioxidants are very important.    (find out how food affects mental wellbeing, here).  

4. Are there foods and diets that might be more appropriate for people struggling with different mental disorders (anxiety versus depression, for example)?

A lot of this can be helped by balancing blood sugar, limiting processed foods, watching caffeine and alcohol intake and eating plenty of plants. Again, it is all about being consistent.  Many supplements such as magnesium and lemon balm can also help. Herbs are very powerful.     

5. Can you share certain fruits or vegetables that are especially beneficial for skincare?

Anything with vitamin C (strawberries, red pepper, kiwi, citrus), omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, chia, flax, hemp), greens for lutein and nuts and seeds for healthy fats that will help your skin glow.  

6. What do you think of the importance of adding more prebiotics or probiotics into your diet? 

They work together. Prebiotics are essential to keeping your health on track.  If you need to feed your gut flora then you can take a probiotic, but prebiotics are important to keep new and already established microbiomes on track.  Bacteria make up most of who we are and we want the good types to stick around!  Probiotics help with everything from skin inflammation to digestion and elimination, which are all huge parts in health and wellness.

7. If so, what foods do you recommend as good sources of prebiotics or probiotics?

Kimchi, sauerkraut, greek yogurt, kombucha, lots of fruits and veggies for prebiotics.  Whole foods always!

Learn more about Real Nutrition here and follow its Instagram here.

Interview by Theophila Lee

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