“You are what you eat” is a concept that most Americans are familiar with from a relatively early age. The notion of making ‘wise’ food choices and avoiding certain products is nothing new and indeed, it is commonly accepted knowledge that, in order to enjoy a healthy, long life, it is important to consume certain foods and avoid others. However, the concept of diet having impact upon mental health is a relatively new one, and not without a certain level of controversy. Of course, alcohol and other mood-altering food products are known for their effect on the mind as much as the body, but what about other foods that are consumed on a daily basis? Is it really the case that mood is affected both positively and adversely by diet? And if it is true that depression, mental illness and addiction can be assisted by diet, then what foods are best to consume, and which are best to avoid?
Food: Simple Pleasure, or Powerful Drug?
According to author of “The Blood Sugar Solution” cookbook, Dr Mark Hyman, “real, whole, fresh food is the most powerful drug on the planet”. A simple change in diet can improve a wide range of basic ailments, such as bloating, sluggishness and even mild depression. But, can food perform as a successful treatment for more serious mental conditions, such as severe depression and even addiction?
Changing Diet and Improving Mental Health
The infamous documentary film ‘Supersize Me’ showed with excruciating clarity the ill effects of a poor diet upon not only physical health, but also upon mental health, as violent mood swings, poor sexual performance and a whole range of other adverse mental effects were highlighted. So it is not surprising to realize that avoiding a diet high in saturated fats is advisable for improving mental well-being. But can food provide an active solution for treating those who already suffer with some form of mental illness? According to professional opinion, the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’. Regrettably, in the treatment of those suffering from mental health conditions, diet is rarely considered, yet many people observe an improvement in symptoms if the correct diet is followed. Interestingly, it would seem that the foods that are beneficial to physical well being are also the same foods that benefit the mental state of the individual, such as fruit and vegetables and other products rich in nutrients and low in saturated fat.
Beating Drug Addiction with Diet
Astonishingly, diet has also been documented to offer considerable benefits to those battling with addiction to substances such as crack cocaine and crystal meth. It would seem that harnessing the positive powers of healthy food not only improves the energy levels of the patient, but helps assist their state of mind, providing much needed mental resolve and strength for tackling their addictions head on. Some clinics, specializing in addiction and rehabilitation, offer nutritional aspects of their treatment, in an attempt to biochemically cleanse both the body and mind and to improve the mental well-being of their patients. Though of course, it is unrealistic to expect that a simple change in diet can cure drug addiction on its own, it would seem that there is little doubt that improved diet can greatly assist with the recovery process, in particular, the consumption of certain vitamins and herbs to restore balance to the mind.
What to Eat to Enjoy Improved Mental Health
There are many types of foods that offer benefits for both mind and body, but here are just a few to help improve your mental fitness and general state of mind.
- Stock up on Selenium. Only recently discovered as a ‘super food’, selenium, found in Brazil nuts, turkey and tuna, is vital for the production of thyroid hormones, which help maintain a balanced mind.
- Keep insomnia at bay with cherries. Amazingly, cherries are excellent at helping to produce a good night’s sleep, which is crucial for mental health.
- Opt for beans, spinach and occasional red meat. As most women will testify, PMS can be a miserable monthly experience. Often, this can be largely due to iron deficiency, which can leave the sufferer exhausted and lacking in energy. Foods rich in iron, such as spinach and beans, are a great way of maintaining energy and beating the monthly blues. Original content by Claire Holt