Did you know our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes can positively or negatively affect how well our body functions? Perhaps even more interesting is that what we do with our physical body (what we eat, how much we exercise and even our posture) can impact our mental state.
The mind-body connection is complicated and intimate, so it’s important to focus on both while working on your recovery. Enjoying fresh air, doing yoga, meditating and eating healthy, well-balanced meals can all support overall wellness and increase your chances of long-term sobriety.
Top Seven Foods for Mental Health
Proper nutrition is vital to the addiction treatment and recovery process. Feed your brain and improve your mental health and wellness with these seven foods:
- Oily Fish
Oily fish are the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, which are essential for learning and improving both short- and long-term memory. Eating plenty of oily fish like mackerel, salmon, cod and herring can help boost feelings of mental health and wellness as well as reduce levels of anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of other mental health benefits as well, including:
- Fighting depression and anxiety
- Improving mental disorders (e.g., bipolar, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and aggression)
- Improving sleep
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are all high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals (unstable molecules produced by the body as a reaction to environmental or other pressures). They’ve also been found to assist in improving symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. These compounds help rebuild your immune system and speed the body’s cleansing process during the initial detoxification phase of recovery. Other foods that are high in antioxidants include leeks, onions and artichokes.
Thanks to the well-known brain-gut connection, probiotics found in cultures like yogurt can actually impact a person’s mental health, assisting in lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Probiotics can also help normalize the digestive tract and alleviate symptoms of alcohol and opiate use like constipation and diarrhea.
- Whole grains
Like yogurt, whole grains and other fiber-rich foods can help restore your digestive system. In fact, a high-fiber diet can jump-start your body’s digestive health, which may have suffered while using. And as far as improving mental health, new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests eating whole grains may help balance levels of serotonin, the feel-good mood-stabilizing hormone in your body. Many whole grains are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which your body needs to produce serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin helps promote healthy sleeping patterns, which are also very important for promoting mental health and well-being.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack that supports mental health, reach for a handful of walnuts. They have a higher antioxidant activity than any other nut, which works to prevent or slow oxidation (damage to cells caused by free radicals) in the mind and body. Walnuts can also support the growth of brand-new neurons—brain cells—an essential part of maintaining good mental health. Finally, walnuts can help decrease inflammation in the body, which in turn helps reduce stress and depression.
- Leafy greens
Nutrients found in leafy green vegetables like lutein, vitamin K, nitrate, folate, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene and kaempferol are associated with cognitive and brain health. They are also rich in antioxidants, which inhibit or delay cell damage (often caused by toxins like alcohol and substance use). Fill your plate with foods like kale, spinach, broccoli and swiss chard to return your body to health after addiction.
Beans are one of the top food choices for a happy, healthy brain. They are full of fiber and antioxidants, which means they can help your body heal itself from the inside out following substance use. Beans are also rich in L-glutamine, an amino acid that offers immune and antioxidant benefits. This amino acid is also effective at helping reduce sugar cravings (common during early recovery). Sugar consumption is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression and inflammation which may slow the progress of addiction treatment.
If you want more information about how an overall holistic approach to recovery can help you overcome addiction, contact Alpine Recovery Lodge at 801-874-3056 today. Our licensed therapists and team of experienced professionals are ready to help you take back your life with a well-rounded approach that is based on your unique needs, wants and goals.