How does Food & Exercise Affect Your Mental Health
Striving for a healthy mind, body and soul is a noble goal, but it all begins with your mental health. With nearly 1 in 4 Americans suffering from some type of mental illness each year, and the CDC predicting that by 2020 depression will rank behind only heart disease as the leading cause of disability, the importance of positive mental health cannot be overstated. Thankfully, research has shown that a healthy diet and exercise regimen not only help lower the risk of depression and other mental illnesses but also stimulate brain development and reduce stress levels. Here are a few tips to ensure a brighter, more positive outlook on life.
Traditional Diets: With studies showing an 80% increase in the risk of depression for teens that eat the lowest-quality diet, nutrition is essential to mental health. Traditional diets, like the Mediterranean or Japanese diets, are high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish and seafood, and contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. Compared to the typical Western diet, which is often loaded with processed and refined foods and sugars, they have been shown to reduce the risk of depression and even suicide. Try eating a “clean” diet for 2 to 3 weeks by cutting out all processed foods and sugar, and adding fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha. You’ll be shocked by how quickly you notice a difference in how you feel both mentally and physically.
Brain Food: As Preventive Medicine Specialist Roxanne Sukol, MD, puts it, “We are, quite literally, what we eat.” A healthy diet is crucial to brain development. In the same way a contractor wouldn’t build a house with flimsy, weak materials, you must provide your body with the proper nutrients to facilitate brain growth. From omega-3s, which improve thinking and memory, to B vitamins, which help reduce brain inflammation, the key is to choose foods that pack as many nutrients in as few calories as possible. A great source of zinc, which helps control the body’s response to stress, can be found in oysters, which pack 500% of your daily need but have just 10 calories apiece. Or try mussels, which are rich in brain-healthy selenium and delicious on whole-grain pasta or in a low-sodium broth. “When we eat real food that nourishes us,” Sukol says,” it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.”
Exercise Provides A Mental Boost: From producing an increase in your serotonin levels to helping normalize sleep patterns, a consistent exercise or training regimen is scientifically proven to assist in the maintenance of good mental health. Regular physical activity not only helps increase the volume of certain brain regions through better blood supply that improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, but it can also be just as good as existing pharmacological interventions for conditions like mild to moderate depression, dementia, and anxiety. Three or more sessions a week of aerobic exercise or resistance training, for 45 to 60 minutes per session, can help treat even chronic depression, with the effects becoming noticeable as soon as four weeks in. As one study puts it, “Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain, so stress has less of an impact.”
Taking the time to tend to your mental health isn’t just for adults – half of all long-term mental disorders start by age 14 – and there’s no time like the present to get started. Eating a proper diet and devoting time every week to exercising will pay huge dividends, both mentally and physically, down the road.
Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group (HVVMG) offers its members award-winning Coordinated care with a speedy referral system. HVVMG has 45 primary care physicians and a panel of two hundred medical specialists across Southern California’s High Desert, as well as the mountain communities. HVVMG has a locally based members service team and is dedicated to a spirit of excellence. HVVMG is part of the Heritage Provider Network
Not a Heritage member? You’ll love the way you feel with Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group. There is no cost, and you can keep your current health insurance, switch to a Heritage doctor. Call (800) 655-9999 to learn more.