I have people asking me fairly often about how I keep my health up. One of the ways I do this is through my diet, which includes a concoction of green smoothies that I have been drinking for years. I believe what we put into our bodies is a major factor in our overall health; our overall health is a major factor in our mental health and ability to deal with stress. It seems so obvious and yet nutrition’s importance is often ignored. So, this month’s message concerns nutrition – what a strange thing for a therapist to talk about !!!!.
Sign up for my newsletter today.
Importance of Diet
The role diet plays in affecting physical well-being is a known fact. The message has been delivered far and wide that we should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and reduce our intake of sugar and trans fats. But in addition, the lesser known benefit of good nutrition is its powerful effect upon mental health.
The Lancet Psychiatry, a leading medical journal, recently published a paper written by an international scientists’ group (comprised of members from the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research) concerning the link between good nutrition and mental health. It stated:
Although the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.
A crucial factor? That’s a strong statement and it is intentional. Studies over time have shown that while drug therapies have achieved a moderate reduction in the number of individuals suffering poor mental health, medication is not the only approach. Nutrition, as the statement from The Lancet Psychiatry article indicates, plays a part. Even though calorie intake has increased among most populations, people choose to consume nutrient-poor, energy-dense, highly processed foods. As a consequence, many individuals do not meet the recommended amounts of brain-essential nutrients, including B-group vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Studies have linked depression to low levels of key B vitamins.
Poor nutrition can affect the brain’s metabolic rate and its ability to adapt and repair. It may also affect the body’s immune system adversely.
Whole-Food Diet Recommended
To provide the nutrients that protect against mental disorders, a traditional, whole-food diet, consisting of higher intakes of foods such as vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grains, lean meat, nuts and legumes, with avoidance of processed foods is advocated. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, are classified as complementary treatment for depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Andrew Weil, M.D., world-renowned pioneer and leader in the field of integrative medicine, which encompasses mind, body and spirit, said that diet is the only major determinant of health that is completely under the individual’s control. “You cannot always control the other determinants of health, such as the quality of the air you breathe, the noise you are subjected to, or the emotional climate of your surroundings, but you can control what you eat. It is a shame to squander such a good opportunity to influence your health.”
I encourage all of you to influence your physiological health by improving nutritional choices. You are invited to start now by trying the Smoothie recipes I’m sharing in my newsletter. ~ MK