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    Tuesday, September 15, 2015

    Eating for Optimal Mental Health

      A generation ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find a physician, especially a psychiatrist, who was willing to consider the role diet and nutrition play in mental health. Now we know that what we put into our bodies affects what we get out of them, and that nutrition is just as important for mental health as it is for physical wellness. You can't necessarily “cure” mental illness with the right diet. Healthy eating will, however, improve the efficacy of medication and therapy. In some cases, the right diet may even help you avoid a mental illness to which you are otherwise vulnerable.

    Before beginning any new diet, talk to your doctor, since your needs may differ from the average. Once you have the go-ahead from your provider, consider some of the follow nutritional strategies.

    The Importance of Water

    You've probably heard that your body is more than half water dozens of times. Water is the foundation of good health, and even of life itself. Even low-level dehydration can leave you feeling anxious and depressed. And when dehydration goes on too long, it can undermine brain function, lead to chronic pain, and make life deeply uncomfortable. Though popular media recommendations advise getting eight glasses of water per day, here's a more precise way to determine how much water you need: Cut your body weight in pounds in half. Then drink that many ounces of water. A 200-pound person, for instance, needs about 100 ounces of water each day.

    Caffeine: Savior or Saboteur?

    Caffeine can be a life-saver when you're sleep deprived and unsure how you'll make it through the day. It can also be the source of anxiety, dehydration, and sleepless nights. Research increasingly suggests that small quantities of caffeine—about a cup of coffee a day—can improve brain health, but anything more than this can leave you feeling jittery and fearful. If you struggle with anxiety, concentration, or insomnia, it's time to cut back on the caffeine—and perhaps eliminate it altogether.

    Whole Grains vs. Refined Sugars

    Sugar is one of the worst foods for your health. It can give you a quick burst of energy, but you'll soon be crashing into a low-level depression. Over time, this cycling in and out of energy and depression can deplete your motivation and undermine your ability to manage your emotions. Sugar can also cause excess weight gain, destroying your body image in the process. Cut excess snacks and prepackaged foods out of your diet, and you may be surprised to see how quickly you begin feeling better.

    Sugar isn't just the stuff you put in your coffee or cookies, though. White bread, white grains, and similar products are all made from refined sugars that can be just as damaging as a box of cookies. Replace these useless foods with whole grains such as protein-rich quinoa or fiber-rich wheat bread.

    The Role of Protein

    Your brain simply cannot function without protein, which supports brain development and health. Unfortunately, some high-protein foods—especially red meat and fried meats—can wreak havoc on your health. Focus on getting protein from lean sources, such as grilled chicken breast, quinoa, almonds, and salmon. The CDC recommends a minimum of 46 grams of protein per day for women, and 56 grams per day for men. However, exceeding these recommendations may give you an additional boost, so talk to your physician about whether incorporating more protein in your diet could improve your outlook.

    Healthy Supplements

    In an ideal world, you'd get all the nutrients you need from the food you eat. Indeed, that should be your goal, so don't trick yourself into believing that a fistful of supplements is a decent substitute for a healthy meal. With that in mind, consider taking the following supplements if you're not getting adequate quantities in your diet:

    Fish oil or Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which help support healthy brain function.
    Vitamin D. Particularly if you don't spend much time outside, you may be deficient in vitamin D. This deficiency can lead to anxiety, depression, and chronic stress.
    Magnesium, which supports muscle health and maintains energy levels.
    Folic acid
    Vitamin B12

    You may also want to consider taking a general-purpose multivitamin. Women should consider taking calcium, and if you struggle with gastrointestinal problems, consider adding a probiotic and a fiber supplement to your daily regimen.

    Attitudes and Approaches to Eating

    It's not just what you eat that matters, but how you feel about eating. Consider some of the following steps to maximize healthy attitudes toward eating:

    -Don't skip meals, and don't eat in front of the television or at the computer. Doing so can cause you to overeat, and may interfere with your ability to select healthy meals.
    -Eat slowly and chew your food completely, since doing so can make your food more enjoyable while preventing overeating.
    -Don't “diet.” Crash diets rarely work. If you need to lose weight, it's time to explore nutritional plans that you can sustain for a lifetime—not restrictive approaches to eating that leave you miserable and hungry.
    -Cook more frequently, and eat out less, since cooking can save you money. It also ensures you have significant control over what you eat and don't.

    Healthy eating habits really do matter, even if you're seeing good results with therapy or medication. In some cases, the food you eat may even improve your body's ability to process and utilize the medications you take. Start slowly, then gradually build until you're incorporating more and more healthy nutrients. You may be stunned to see the effects of healthy eating on your physical and mental well-being.

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     This topic brought to you from psychologytoday.com
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