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Food for Thought: How Diet Influences Mental Health and Recovery
Dominic NicosiaMay 27, 2021
There’s a clearly defined relationship between proper diet and mental health, and it translates directly to addiction recovery. We often think about healthy foods as a means to achieve proper physical health; but in reality, what we eat can affect a profound effect on our mood, brain function and ability to focus. In the context of addiction recovery, what we eat can even affect cravings and make it harder to function with lingering withdrawal symptoms. Working with your doctor or a nutritionist in long-term recovery to develop a healthy diet is just one of the measures you can take to promote proper physical and mental health.
What Foods Are Good for Mental Health and Recovery?
There are a variety of foods that can help you maintain balanced mental health in recovery and everyday life, starting with fruits and veggies. Just as they can help boost immunity and digestive health while increasing your physical energy, fruits and vegetables have proven to be great for mental acuity and brain function:
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and help with memory, attention, logic and concentration.
- Carrots – Carrots have been linked to decreased rates and symptoms of depression.
- Dark Leafy Greens – Greens like spinach and kale have been shown to promote mental acuity and sharpness.
- Lettuce – There is ample evidence to suggest that lettuce can help prevent cognitive decline, plus it’s crunchy and delicious on a burger!
- Cucumber – The anti-inflammatory fisetin, which is present in cucumbers, has been shown to protect the brain and central nervous system from age-related decline.
- Apples – An apple a day may keep the depression away, as well as age-related neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
- Bananas – It’s hard to image why the term “bananas” has become synonymous with “crazy”. They can actually be quite good for your brain, including improving through the deployment of tryptophan.
- Citrus Fruits – Lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruits contain Vitamin C, which can has been shown to help prevent anxiety.
Berries, kiwi and dark chocolate are also helpful in promoting calm and putting us in a better mood overall.
What Foods Are Bad for Mental Health?
Just as there are cerebral superfoods, there are also those that can have uncomfortable and serious effects on your brain, mood and overall mental health, many of which include:
- Sugary Drinks – Sugar can be addictive, period. There are few things that go better with pizza or popcorn than a nice soda; but what’s tantalizing for the tastebuds isn’t always great for gray matter. These drinks are high in high-fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to all manner of mental diseases, including dementia and other types of memory loss. But don’t getting your soda fix from aspartame or other artificial sweeteners; those can be even worse.
- Refined Carbohydrates – Refined carbs that are high on the glycemic index are often linked to memory loss and serious long-term cognitive decline; they can also be responsible for extreme changes in mood.
- Trans Fats – There’s a price to be paid when you open that wrapper. Trans fats have been linked to higher rates of excessive changes in mood, memory loss and depression.
Alcohol and highly processed foods, as well as fish that are high in mercury can also affect mental health in an adverse way. It’s important to understand how these neurobiological interactions can trigger cravings that can lead to relapse or other types of issues in your recovery.
Eating A Brain-Healthy Diet
Work with your doctor to develop a meal plan that you think will improve and preserve your mental health. There are also things you can do ensure regular mood cycles, including but not limited to:
- Avoid Processed Foods
- Stick to Regular Mealtimes
- Don’t Eat Three Hours before Sleeping
- Reduce Foods High in Caffeine
- Eat High-Fiber Foods
You can also give your brain diet a boost by taking vitamin and mineral supplements recommended by your healthcare provider. Make an appointment with your doctor to figure out which are best for you and your specific neurochemistry.
Starting Off on the Right…Food
The process of eating a recovery-friendly diet for balanced mental health can start in treatment. Recovery Unplugged offers nutritious freshly prepared meals for our residential clients in Austin, Lake Worth and Nashville and snacks for our outpatient clients in Fort Lauderdale and Northern Virginia. We also offer robust nutritional education to help our clients achieve balanced physical and mental health. Recovery is more than about staying away from drugs or alcohol; it’s about cultivating a healthy lifestyle so you can enjoy and embrace with the energy you need to meet daily and long-term challenges; it’s about feeling good, and this often begins with the food that you eat. If you or someone you care about needs help for alcohol or drug addiction, contact Recovery Unplugged now to start healing today.