A good diet is absolutely foundational for mental health as well physical health. In reality, there is no distinction between mental and physical health. Anything you can do to make yourself healthier will almost certainly make you feel better and think better too.
Trying to figure out what is actually the healthiest way to eat can be maddening. Everyone is pushing his own miracle diet–vegan, paleo, high fat/low carb, low fat/high carb. They all claim the same benefits and put forth testimonials of people who who have lost 40 pounds or cured some chronic disease.
The basic principles of healthy eating are pretty simple. As food writer Michael Pollan said, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Most of what grocery stores sell is not actually food, although much of it is technically edible. “Food” means anything a great-grandparent would recognize as food. Real food has much less sugar and salt than processed packaged food. Foods high in sugar and salt–pizza and ice cream, for example–are great while you’re eating them but they make you feel terrible later. Avoiding foods that sabotage you is half the battle.
The caveat to real food is to be careful how much fruit you eat. Fruit is bred to be sweet and tends to have a lot of sugar. If you like fruit, go for berries. They have less sugar than other fruit and they are high in nutrients, including antioxidants. It’s best to avoid juice.
Don’t eat too much. This is easier when you eat real food because real food tends to have more protein and fiber, which fill you up, and less salt and sugar, which make you eat more. This helps you maintain a healthy weight, which makes you feel better and feel better about yourself.
Eating mostly plants is where most of the positive benefits come from. Limiting salt and sugar can help prevent poor concentration and energy crashes, but eating nutrient-dense plants supports long term health. Your body needs a huge variety of molecules to function properly. It can make many of them but some you have to supply. For example, your body isn’t great at making omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health, so you have to eat fish or take a supplement to get enough.
Eating a variety of plant foods and a moderate amount of meat–probably less than you eat now–is the best way to be sure your body and brain are getting what they need to function properly. Leafy greens, such as kale, collard greens, spinach, and mustard greens are easy to prepare and nutrient dense. Eat at least one serving of vegetables with every meal.
Whole grains, although much vilified in certain circles, are important because they provide the fuel your brain uses. Choose brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat over white rice or refined flour, which can crash your energy. A variety of nuts, beans, and lentils provide fiber and additional nutrients.
Serenity Oaks Wellness seeks to adorn each client with the tools and foundation they need to live a beautiful life of recovery. Call us today for information on our treatment programs for addiction and alcoholism: 844-720-6847