Make no mistake about it, serious mental health disorders like clinical depression, schizophrenia, and dementia require serious medical help. But for those who suffer from issues of mental health that don’t need hospitalization – mild depression, anxiety, stress disorders, things that can still ruin a life – increasing research is proving that good dietary choices can go a long way to easing distress.
It makes sense. Brains consume up to 30 percent of our total body nutrition; the quality of that food energy will have a huge impact on how the brain functions. If we put garbage in, to borrow a computing phrase, we will get nothing but garbage coming out. In the brain’s case, that means impaired thought processes, poor memory, mood swings, depression, irrationality, and other problems.
Have you looked at Internet suggestions for ‘brain boosters’, ‘mental health foods’, and ‘mood diets’? The list is mind-boggling; everybody has detailed instructions for what foods to eat, vitamins to take, and exotic supplements to buy in order to achieve proper brain functioning.
I can simplify things a little. Many with poor mental health make poor food choices. It kind of goes with the territory. Making the effort to return to simple, sane eating practices can and often does make a great difference to a sufferer’s quality of life. And once we feel better, it becomes easier to continue with those new dietary habits.
The simple mental health diet:
1) Avoid fats that are solid at room temperature. The gooey stuff inside Twinkies? Bad. The icing on the cake? Pass on it. The white stuff in meat? Cut it off. Pure butter and unadulterated coconut oil are the best solid-fat choices if you need some.
2) Decrease your sugar intake. If it’s sweetened, avoid it or have less. I’m not talking about removing all the joy from life here. Fruits are fine. A little honey in your tea is great. Just cut out as much of the crap as you can. And don’t go for artificial sweeteners – the jury is still out on their health benefits, and the underlying idea here is to avoid processed foods anyway.
3) Increase your use of fruits and veggies. Not sure how to do this? Eat a carrot. Have an apple. Make a salad once a day. It’s that easy.
These simple steps, remembered every day, can lead to a big change in your level of functioning and overall mood, alleviating many symptoms of milder mental health problems. And once your brain starts working better, more ways to improve the situation will naturally occur to you. Tony Berryman is a Registered Massage Therapist and freelance writer in Vancouver, Canada.