How what we eat affects how we feel
Research has shown that what we eat can have a significant impact on our mental well-being. For example, a healthy diet—one rich in nutrients and low in sugar and other processed foods—can help elevate mood and improve the overall quality of life.
It can be challenging to eat with healthful intentions. You must prioritize and maintain proper, helpful eating habits for optimal body functioning, as well as be aware of the connection between physical and mental health. However, with knowledge comes power, and in the case of personal wellbeing: intention.
For those struggling with addiction, eating well is of utmost importance
For people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, good nutrition is important. Poor eating habits often result from substance abuse or addiction, because the desire to seek and use drugs overpowers even the most basic human needs, such as eating.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances are harmful to your health in many ways. For example, alcohol is linked to cancer and other conditions when used in excess. Methamphetamines alter the production and quality of saliva which makes it a challenge to properly chew and digest food; Cocaine suppresses your appetite and many times when individuals who use the drug do get around to eating, they're filling up with carbs and sweets and other empty calories. It is for these reasons that recovery programs must address proper food and nutrition, particularly with an emphasis on education so that patients may learn about the importance of healthy eating for their overall mind and body wellbeing.
How Healthy Eating Relates To The Mind
The human mind and body are closely connected through the vagus nerve. The digestive system produces most of the body's serotonin, a chemical that aids in mood regulation and is thought to be a contributor to various mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Thus, the food we are fueling with matters a great deal. The human brain requires various nutrients like fatty acids and a range of different vitamins to operate most optimally, many of which can be found in various plant-based foods. And yet very few people consume adequate amounts, if any at all. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 10% or 1 in 10 adults eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.
What Should You Eat?
Many people find that they have more energy and feel better when they eat a healthy diet. In general, health experts advise people to limit their intake of meat and dairy products, and to focus on whole grains, beans, vegetables, and other healthy foods. An emphasis on variety—in color as well as in types of food—ensures that we receive all the nutrients our bodies need. Many people today eat too much sugar, which can cause inflammation in the gut. Chronic inflammation ultimately affects the brain and leads to mood swings and other problems.
To ensure the health of your nervous system and your brain, it is important to eat a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals. A healthy diet should include these food groups:
Complex carbohydrates: these are foods that consist of sugar molecules that the body turns into glucose; a compound that the body uses as energy. Foods like legumes, beans, whole grains, and various starchy vegetables have high nutritional value and help you stay satisfied longer.
Lean proteins: proteins work hard to build muscle mass and take care of important functions; lean proteins contain less saturated fats without compromising the nutrients and lead to sustainable energy. Most poultry and fish are lean, but there are plant-based foods like soybeans (in all forms), various nuts, and seeds.
Fatty acids: healthy acids and oils help to lower cholesterol and aid in the proper functioning of bodily systems; they can be found in various fish and meat products as well as eggs, flaxseeds, and nuts.
There are many different diets and health management paradigms out there, but most agree on a combination of more fruits and vegetables (high in fiber and antioxidants), equal amounts of proteins and whole grains, and a small amount of natural fat.
How We Eat Also Matters
Our culture is increasingly becoming more hectic and hurried. We rush about and schedule our responsibilities and playtime strategically throughout our busy days. Often, we don't take the time to enjoy the foods we're eating; we watch TV while scarfing down dinner and rarely make mealtime its own destination. What once was an act of necessary, life-sustaining sustenance is now (for many) merely a pesky pit stop that we must make lest we wish to forgo everything else that we actually want to do.
By being mindful all the time, especially when you’re eating, you can become better attuned to your body and the present moment. Awareness is one of the first steps toward making healthy choices for our minds and bodies.By being mindful all the time, especially when you’re eating, you can become better attuned to your body and the present moment. Awareness is one of the first steps toward making healthy choices for our minds and bodies.
Healthy eating isn’t the cure for everything
Healthy eating can help with a variety of health concerns, but it doesn't cure them all. If you or someone you know struggles with mental health issues or uses substances like alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, help is available. Know that you are not alone and there are treatment providers waiting to answer your questions and get you the help you need. Reach out to John Corbett today for more information.