This fantastic article was written by Trisha Miller, a freelance writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan who promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. We encourage you to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!
For years doctors and health professionals have been telling us that processed foods, too many red meats, and sugars are unhealthy for our bodies. However, it wasn’t until much more recently that researchers began to make a connection between nutrition and mental health. Now more than ever, food for mental health is of utmost importance. Take, for example, the effect of sugar on the body.
Food for Mental Health: Not All Foods are Equal
Sadly, only 13% of men and 15% of women are eating enough fruits and vegetables to sustain a healthy body and mind. Substances and additives from processed foods have to go somewhere. Your body absorbs them the same way that it does essential nutrients and vitamins.
However, your body, and most importantly, your brain uses nutrients and vitamins to keep your tissue healthy and your brain functioning at 100%. If you replace those ingredients with artificial ingredients, hormones, and preservatives, your body will lose one of its most basic functions – keeping you healthy and sharp.
Take processed foods that are high in refined sugar, for example. Today, we estimate that the average adult consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar every day! That’s obscene when you consider the effect of sugar on the body. Research has shown that once the brain takes in processed materials that it cannot use, it is very hard for it to get rid of these materials. Refined sugar is one of these substances.
Your body doesn’t quite know what to do with it! One effect of sugar on the body is that it can actually cause inflammation of tissues, which can cause permanent damage. As a result, many people suffer from slowed brain function or cloudiness as well as worsened mood and even depression just from eating an unhealthy snack.
As they say, once in awhile shouldn’t produce any long term effects, but less often is always a better option.
Food for Mental Health: How They’re Linked
Since nutrition is one of our body’s most basic needs, folks suffering from mental and physical illnesses may want first take a look at their diet when starting recovery.
Of course, this is not to say that changing your diet will cure all health related problems, but research has confirmed positive outcomes for many cases of food for mental health. Indeed, maintaining a healthy diet can help the body flush out unnecessary toxins and free-radicals as well as improve their mood.
For example, people who abuse drugs for an extended period may experience a huge change in mood and their mental health. This is due to the nature of certain drugs. Drugs like heroin interact with the brain in a way that makes the user feel euphoric by telling the brain to send out a plethora of pleasure-inducing chemicals, like dopamine.
When someone decides to get off the drug, their mental health often plummets because of the instant lack of dopamine in the brain. Their brain essentially “crashes” and doesn’t know how to heal itself just yet. So, in tandem with a stable rehabilitation, you need food for mental health (i.e., proper nutrition can help to restore the brain to its former glory).
Unfortunately for some, permanent damage does occur which may never be reversible. In many cases, however, a well-balanced diet can truly, positively affect a person’s mental health. That’s the importance of food for mental health; by boosting their mood and maintaining a healthy balance of good chemicals in the brain, they become both physically and mentally healthier.
Keeping Your Body Healthy: Your Digestive Tract Matters
Another great example that proves how important diet is is the digestive tract. Our bodies produce 95% of our serotonin in the digestive tract. Serotonin is a chemical that regulates sleep, our moods, and our appetite.
Millions of nerve cells cover your digestive tract, and these nerve cells are the ones who produce good chemicals, like serotonin – as long as they are healthy. When you eat foods with healthy oils and good bacteria, like yogurt or kombucha, they protect your nerve cells from any nasty things that might interrupt their functions.
However, regular ingestion of foods with preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics can kill the good bacteria in your gut and essentially kill your nerve cells as well. If this happens, those nerve cells aren’t able to do their job, and it can severely affect your mood.
Taking care of your body is just as important as taking care of your mental health – and vice versa. It’s time that we all realize that our body truly is amazing and can heal itself in miraculous ways, but only if we feed it the right ingredients to do so.
Remember, if you share this article on your social networks, you’ll help others learn all these benefits.