Improving Your Diet For Better Mental Health
Physicians and medical researchers have studied the effects of food on cardiovascular health, immune response, and various other physical issues. Now, the link between food and mental health is starting to receive more attention in research as well. The foods you eat can directly influence your mental wellbeing and create physical issues that lead to mental health problems in the long run. Deficiencies in essential nutrients, substance abuse, excessive saturated fats, or too much processed food can harm your body as well as your mind.
How Food Affects Your Mental Health
The human body relies on a complex balance of nutrients for all of the vital systems to function at their best. While supplements for most essential nutrients are readily available in any grocery store, experts agree that it’s much better to receive your daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals through food, not supplements. Our brain uses the nutrients we consume to regulate body and brain functions, balance mood, and allow for clearer thinking.
The relationship between diet and mental health also hinges on portion control and exercise. Any assessment of food intake to improve your mental health should also take into account your typical exercise schedule. Lack of exercise is the leading cause of obesity, and exercise is the key to any weight loss regimen. Vitamins and minerals also play an enormous role in substance abuse recovery, and alcoholics need vitamin therapy as an essential part of a healthy detox process.
Essential Nutrients For Healthy Brain Function
Holistic health for your body and mind depends heavily on your diet and the nutrients you consume. Some of the most important nutrients to include in your diet are protein, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. Almost every essential nutrient relies on other nutrients to perform at peak efficiency, and these synergistic reactions simply don’t happen with supplements. Consider adding a few foods to your diet to make sure you are getting a healthy supply of these vital nutrients instead of relying on supplements that don’t offer the same potency.
Lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fatty fish are generally good sources of lean proteins. Salmon in particular is a fantastic source of protein, vitamin D, and potassium. Liver is a great source of protein, iron, potassium, and several other beneficial elements.
You should find a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for your diet. Salmon, chia seeds, meat, eggs, and dairy products from grass-fed animals are fantastic sources. These fatty acids improve overall body function by helping to regulate blood pressure, mood, and the body’s inflammation response. Omega acids are also vital for neurological and visual development in infants and can reduce the symptoms of depression.
Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, and collard greens offer a healthy supply of omega acids, magnesium, iron, calcium, and several other beneficial minerals. Vegetables are generally a great source of beneficial nutrients for your gut health, and the balance of healthy bacteria in your digestive system can directly affect your mental health.
The “Second Brain”
Many medical experts refer to the gut as the “second brain” due to the fact that it has its own nervous system. The gut nervous system communicates directly with the central nervous system through the vagus nerve. This accounts for sensations like feeling sick during a stressful situation or sudden loss of bowel control from a shock or fright.
The foods we eat break down in the gut and travel throughout the body, and some of those substances are neurotransmitters that alter the brain’s chemistry. Certain nutrients contribute to serotonin production, which helps handle stress and encourage rest. Others improve cognition, memory, and clarity of thinking.
Fresh Vs. Processed
The quality of the food we eat also has a dramatic impact on our overall health. Processed foods and foods with loads of additives, sweeteners, and preservatives are generally poor choices for your digestive health, which in turn affects your overall nervous system health. These foods aren’t very dense in nutrient content, and the human body has trouble processing foods with lots of artificial compounds.
It’s best to opt for foods ready to eat as they grow from the ground or with simple cooking techniques. Fresh fruits and vegetables generally have higher nutrient contents than frozen, canned, jarred, or processed options. Cooking methods can also play a role in a food’s nutrient content, particularly with meat. For example, deep frying adds unnecessary fats and calories, while grilling safely cooks meat without unnecessary additions while preserving the bulk of the nutrient content.
Consequences Of Poor Diet Choices
Consistently making poor dietary choices will lead to several health complications, both physical and mental. As your nutritional health declines, your brain functions will also suffer. It may become harder to focus, or your memory may lag more than usual if you consistently eat foods with low essential nutrient content. Along with the dangers of malnutrition, these poor diet choices may also lead to more severe health issues such as substance abuse.
Poor Diet And Substance Abuse
People with substance abuse disorders rarely receive proper nutrition. Alcoholics in particular suffer serious mental health ailments from overconsumption of alcohol. Rebuilding the body after an addiction usually requires nutritional support and dietary coaching to replenish essential vitamins and minerals. A good substance abuse treatment program needs to address physical and mental health in tandem with substance abuse counseling.
Reflections Rehab is a nationally accredited substance abuse treatment center for men, and the team at Reflections understands how crucial vitamin therapy is to the recovery process and overall mental health.