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Mental Health Series Pt. VI: Food.

Did you know that the foods you eat can actually affect your mind? Yes, it’s true. Not only do the foods you eat affect you physically, but they also can affect your thinking and mental health. As I’ve posted about before, each facet of us is connected. The functioning of our body affects our mind, and vice versa. It’s so crucial to follow a diet with good nutrition.

Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function. These studies even found that symptoms of depression worsened on this high-sugar diet! Many parents can attest to the mood changes when their child ingests sugar or artificial food colorings. Even adults can attest to their mood changes or changes to their focus with certain foods (or larger amounts of certain foods). When a person’s brain isn’t getting the proper fuel, it can’t function. It is similar to filling a car with the wrong type of gasoline. The car won’t function correctly. It will eventually break down. It’s the same with your brain; the wrong types of fuel are going to cause things to go awry.

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Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Below is a list of foods that I’ve found in my research that can help your brain functioning, and so help your mental health:

1) Fish (fatty). Our brains are made up mostly of fat, which the body cannot create on its own. Our need for omega-3 fatty acids must be met in our diet. A few examples of fish that are good for this are: salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

2) Leafy greens. B vitamin deficiency has been discovered to have links with depression. These greens contain B vitamins and trace nutrients found in soil, which are lacking in the diets of many people.

3) Fermented foods. These foods can include kimchi, yogurt, pickled vegetables, and others. Your body needs “good” bacteria. These healthy bacteria have been found to reduce stress hormones, as well as anxiety!

4) Lean proteins. These can include chicken, eggs, beans, and, once again, fish. These foods can help keep serotonin (a hormone that helps you to feel happy) levels balanced.

Below is an intriguing video by a clinical psychologist, if you’d like to hear more about the link between mental health and nutrition.

This was the last post in the mental health series! I do hope that you found some useful tip(s) or thoughts in the posts. Please know that you are not alone and you are LOVED in whatever struggles you may be facing!

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith

Mental Health Series Pt. IV: Higher Education

Mental Health Series Pt. V: Finance

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Physical Wellness-Part III

Welcome to Part III of the Wellness series, Physical Wellness! This is the last part of the series. You can read Part I-Spiritual Wellness here, and Part II-Emotional Wellness here.

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Our bodies are integral to who we are. People do not see our soul; they see our physical self! The state of our bodies affects our emotional state. For example, if you are feeling ill physically, you often feel down mentally. If you are taking good care of your body (and not struggling with some sort of health issue), you are going to feel great physically & mentally!

Our bodies are a temple of God, as we are told in 1 Corinthians (chapter 6, verse 19). I would even go so far as to say that the way that we take care of our bodies can reflect our relationship with God. In Mark (chapter 12, verse 31), we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are taking care of ourselves physically and otherwise, we honor God by honoring His gift of life!

Again, some of these tips may seem basic–but it’s when we lose track of the basics when things start to go awry. Get back to the basics and you’ll be on the right track!

1. Eat a healthy diet. Eat lots of fruits and veggies–a rainbow of colors! Different colors of fruits and veggies contain different vitamins and minerals. Whenever possible, eat organic. Certain conventional fruits and vegetables contain more pesticides and should be eaten organic. The “dirty dozen” refers to produce that should be eaten organic, while the “clean fifteen” is produce that is usually safe to eat conventional. A list can be found here. Don’t forget about protein to keep you energized! Eggs are a great source of protein, as well as beans, nuts, meat, and fish! (Going along with this tip, stay hydrated! Dehydration can be very dangerous.)

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2. Get enough sleep. I focused on this in emotional wellness, but of course it’s very important here as well! If your body isn’t given time to recharge, you will suffer. You’ll be less productive and possibly even irritable. Lack of sleep can even lower immune function, making it more likely that you’ll get sick. Over the long-term, lack of sleep can also increase your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Yes, sleep is more important than you realize! Shoot for 7-9 hours a night.

3. Exercise. Nowadays, many people live sedentary lifestyles. That makes getting exercise more of necessity than ever. Does exercise seem like a chore? Discover what you like. Do you prefer a high-intensity workout? Do you enjoy pilates? Or are you more of a zumba person? Walking, running, swimming, skating, basketball, football, ultimate frisbee, or whatever sport you like…It’s up to you. According to Mayo Clinic, exercise can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even depression. It’s beneficial physically and emotionally.

4. Pray! Of course, I’m going to put in a plug for prayer. Prayer is soothing and can help lower blood pressure and possibly even strengthen the immune system, according to this article. You can even go on a “prayer walk” or a rosary walk and combine #3 & #4!

5. Eat probiotic foods or take a probiotic supplement. Your gut contains “good” and “bad” bacteria. The “good” bacteria aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. An imbalance of “good” and “bad” gut flora can also contribute to other problems, such as your risk of cancer. Especially if you have taken antibiotics, the “good” bacteria get killed off. You can help to replenish them by eating probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kefir, saurkraut, and others) or taking a supplement. Here are some benefits of probiotic use.

6. Be careful what you put on your body and use for everyday tasks. Cancer-causing chemicals have been found in soaps and shampoos, as well as other personal care products such as perfumes. Most cleaning products contain chemicals, so opt for more natural cleaners. Use a BPA-free water bottle. Research is still being done about BPA and its risks, but some risks that have come to be shown are brain and behavior problems, as well as a later risk of cancer. The things we put on our bodies every day do affect our physical well-being, and have a cumulative effect, so it’s important to be aware of the things you’re using on your body or around the house.

Is there anything else you would add to this list? Are there any other tips that are essential to physical health?

Thank you for reading the Wellness Series! I am excited to write even more about these topics in the future and help you to achieve better physical and emotional health, as well as a closer walk with God!