Food. Why would a psychotherapist be writing about food? Just as food nourishes our bodies, it also nourishes our brains. It contains vitamins, minerals, fats, antioxidants, provides energy, and can alter consciousness (think alcoholic drinks or sugar). The thing to keep in mind is that we are all different so there is no perfect diet for all of us, but there are perfect diets for each of us. This means that while organic food is healthier for all of us, there are also differences in our genetic makeup requiring different dietary requirements for different individuals. This means that while one of us may feel great on a keto diet, another might feel wonderful being vegetarian. One might be better with higher protein and lower fat while another might do better with higher fat.
Let’s take a moment though to review the commonalities. We are biological beings and evolved on natural foods. That means we didn’t evolve on preservative, hormones, pesticides, and refined foods. We require clean, healthy, chemical free nutrients to be at our healthiest, physically, emotionally, and mentally. In addition, if we eat it, we need optimum digestion to ensure we absorb and utilize those nutrients. So, get rid of the processed foods that are stripped of nutrients, add in good, whole, healthy organic foods, and you are on your way to better health. But there is more to eating than what you eat.
Food preparation in itself is healthy and should be done mindfully. Historically, food preparation was a daily ritual that brought fresh food to the table for the family. Rituals have been found to use both right and left-brain hemispheres and improve mental health. Once the preparation ritual is complete, the ritual of sharing a meal should begin. The social component of eating together, in addition to the mindfulness of experiencing good food are all health contributing. Food should be eaten slowly to allow the digestive process to begin in the mouth. Cramming our meals at our desks or in front of the tv or computer are not healthy ways of eating.
Choosing foods from the rainbow of colors ensures more complete nutrition as does including fermented foods, fresh foods and variety. Organic meats, eggs, healthy fats, berries, and bitter greens are all great foods to support healthy moods. A variety of spices such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic support wonderful mental health. Saturated fats such as organic grass-fed butter can help the body absorb vitamins. Eating regularly can help avoid a drop in blood sugar which can result in poor mood reactions such as anxiety, irritability, nervousness, and other symptoms.
While a mere blog post cannot provide much information regarding the influence of food on mental health, I hope that this has at least provided “food for thought” with regard to the topic and “whet your appetite” to learn more. Yes, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist going there.