When living with a mental health condition, it can feel like your body and mind are out of your control. It’s nice to know that there is an aspect of your mental wellness that you have the opportunity to control every day. Healthy eating is the simplest way you can bring balance and wellness into your life regardless of whether you are living with a mental health diagnosis or not. Of course, a trip to the grocery store is not going to be a cure-all for mental illnesses but it can better ensure your brain and body are functioning at their best. Here are four tips that will guide you to make better nutritional choices to stay physically healthy and mentally balanced.
1. Eating Around the Same Time Everyday
Often times when you push yourself to go too long in between meals you start to feel the negative symptoms of low blood sugar. When your blood sugar begins to decline from lack of food, you start to feel a range of volatile emotions including sadness, anger, apathy and extreme fatigue. When coping with the challenges of a mental health issue, such extreme swings in blood sugar can often make existing symptoms feel even worse. Staying consistent with your meal times and making sure you do not push past extreme hunger will prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low.
2. Don’t Fear the Fat
The right fat that is! Foods containing essential fatty acids help keep your brain functioning properly. The British Journal of Psychology noted that research weighs too heavily on managing neurotransmitters while ignoring the nutrients that our brains actually need. It is believed that up to 80% of your brain’s mass is made up of fatty tissue. A diet that is lacking these essential fats can lead to an array of adverse mental symptoms from chronic fatigue to depression and anxiety. Thankfully, all the foods you need to get your daily dose of essential fatty acids are not hard to find. Fish, especially salmon, is famous for being high in Omega-3 fatty acids which are known to facilitate brain, heart and joint health. Adding avocados, almonds, sunflower seeds as well as coconut oil into your diet can ensure you are getting enough of this vital nutrient.
You might be someone who fears that snacking in between meals will only add to your calorie load and make you gain weight. That all can be avoided if you know what to snack on. Your brain, as well as your body, needs protein. Americans already have enough protein in their diet as it is so there is no need to overload your body with it. Protein burns slowly so, choosing a high protein snack will keep your energy levels balanced while avoiding taking in too much protein at once. Reaching for a snack like nut mix or deli meat and a few pieces of cheese in between meals will keep your brain and body properly fueled.
4. Avoid Crash Dieting
The Royal College of Psychiatry defines “eating well” as not only consuming the right nutrients but also maintaining a body weight that is both healthy and stable. Your brain will have trouble if it stops receiving the amount of calories and nutrients it needs to operate. Your body views a very limited diet as a major threat to survival which will cause the release of stress hormones. It’s almost impossible to feel happy, calm or balanced when your body thinks you are struggling to survive. If you are experiencing health problems because of weight gain, seek the guidance of a medical professional first and aim to lose weight at a safe steady pace. Your mind and body will thank you for it!
Throughout the month of May, RtoR.org will release a daily Post
of the Day in observance of Mental Health Awareness Month
Mixed Nuts Image by David Dewitt