The Benefits of Clean Eating for Your Recovery and Mental Health

May 4, 2022

Food can impact health in various ways. What we put into our bodies can have an effect on our mood and play a role in the way we think and feel. Certain substances can also affect our self-image, which is how we see and feel about ourselves. This means that something as simple as the foods we choose can affect us. Changing the foods we eat and our dietary habits can end up benefiting not only your physical health but your mental well-being too. 

Taking part in holistic treatment can aid the process of recovering from mental illness. Holistic methods treat from a whole-person approach. This could include a regimen of physical activities, mindful practices, and dietary changes. Some research has indicated there is a connection between dietary habits and brain-based health and disorders. Similar to mental health interventions, dietary interventions can be considered just as beneficial and life-saving. 

Research on Food and Mood

Much research has been conducted to better understand the connection between food and mood. The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association (Mo Med) published an article on food, mood, and brain health. This explored innovative strategies that incorporate dietary intervention into recovering from mental illness. From this research, they’ve learned that it’s important to understand past dietary habits because of the connection between food choices and the risk of mental health.

Counseling can aid the recovery process, especially if there is a significant connection between dietary habits and mental health. For example, in addiction treatment, relapse prevention programs focus on tips for improving habits post-treatment, which can include dietary habits. If people are seeking treatment for other mental disorders, counseling can help to improve negative coping habits developed around food intake. If we struggle to find healthy coping mechanisms for emotions and past trauma, we might compensate by developing obsessive habits to help us cope. This can include obsessive eating habits. 

The Science of What We Eat and Brain Health

Because what we put into our bodies affects us both physically and mentally, what we eat will impact our brain’s health. The Mo Med article referenced above claims that the brain “is an organ with very high metabolic and nutrient demands,” and consumes about “20% of a person’s daily caloric intake.” That’s about 400 calories a day. Since our brains absorb about 20% of the food we eat, the food we put in our bodies must be rich in nutrients needed for improved health. Just as our bodies need certain nutrients to function successfully, so does the brain. 

According to the above Mo Med article, some diets are more conducive to better brain health. Based on the research, it is recommend to eat a diet that includes “adequate building blocks for monoamine neurotransmitters" and “[is] rich in omega-3 fatty acids.” Foods to consider eating to promote brain health may include: 

  • Green and leafy vegetables: While kale and spinach are most commonly consumed, plant-based foods have been proven to be very beneficial for brain health. 

  • Fatty fish: Fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids which improve brain health. For those who do not enjoy eating fish, there are substitutions that can be made. You may consider incorporating other foods with omega-3 fatty acids into your diet like avocado or walnuts. In other instances, you can even discuss with your doctor if they recommend taking an omega-3 supplement as a way to get those nutrients to your brain. 

  • Eggs: Eggs are also shown to improve brain health and are also an incredibly effective food for weight loss or physical well-being. Containing nutrients like vitamins B6 and B12, folate, and choline, this food can benefit brain health. Choline in particular is a micronutrient that helps boost mood and improve memory. 

Changing Your Diet Safely

Topics revolving around dietary interventions can be triggering for individuals recovering from eating disorders. For this reason, making dietary changes should be approached holistically and with a relaxed mindset. Clients should be mindful of the fact that everyone’s body is different. No specific diet or eating habit works for everyone. This might sometimes require getting creative in how we plan to consume brain-healthy nutrients. 

For some, the first step is to make an effort to consume more water throughout the day. Some people may focus on incorporating more fruits or vegetables into daily snacks or meals, while others may change their portions. Whatever first step you take, it should be a conscious choice to improve your overall mental and physical well-being, and should include professional or medical advice.

The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center is the perfect place to make such life changes, try new things, and start living a new way of life. Between our mindfulness practices and holistic approach to treatment, our professionals can work with you to correct any bad habits you may have developed and learn new ones to improve your mental health, including dietary habits. To find help, consider a program with The Ohana today.

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