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You Are What You Eat

March 16, 2020

The phrase, “You are what you eat” brings up silly childhood notions of turning ourselves into delicious inanimate objects. However, that phrase actually has more truth than not. Perhaps it is obvious, but if you eat junk food all the time, your body will feel like junk, too. Your risk of health problems increases, as does your risk of obesity. You may not literally become junk food, but your health becomes the equivalent.

On the other hand, the more attention that you pay to the nutrients and healthy foods that you put into your body, the more health benefits you can have. When your body feels healthy, your mind feels healthy, too. The childish proverb “You are what you eat” has more truth in it than you might have thought, because when you eat healthy, you are healthy.

Eating for Your Physical Health

Probably since you were born, you had people telling you to eat your vegetables so you could grow big and strong. Although recommendations have changed over time, that advice was actually consistent — research shows that you need the most servings of vegetables in your diet to thrive and be physically healthy.

Current research has led to the creation of MyPlate, which features the USDA’s recommendations for a healthy diet. By following the suggested proportions of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy each day, you will be giving your body the basics of what it needs to be physically healthy. Keeping in mind your portions, and perhaps even trying to monitor your caloric intake, you give your body the energy it needs each day, too.

The recommendations surrounding MyPlate allow for dietary choices such as vegetarian or vegan, as well as the flexibility to manage any food intolerances. Remember that even food that is deemed healthy for most may not be healthy for you if you have dietary restrictions or allergies.

Eating for Your Mental Health

Beyond the basic dietary needs, you can also do good things for your mental health when you pay attention to what you are eating. According to a 2017 study, nutrition is very important to behaviors and moods as well as the overall makeup of mental illness. While proper medical care is still needed, what you eat can actually impact your mental health.

Another study recommended a very specific diet to achieve your optimal mental health: a modified Mediterranean diet. This diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and seafood, but is very low in sugars, as well as processed and refined foods. This could be considered a brain power diet, or a diet that will help improve your brain function.

You are so trained to think of your diet as far as it impacts your body, but do you think about how the things we eat impact our mind? More than just eating trendy foods labelled as brain boosts or brain food, regularly eating a healthy diet while taking care to avoid certain things, can actually improve your mental health.

Supplementing Your Mind

In addition to healthy foods and an overall diet that is well-balanced and proportioned, you can also take vitamins and supplements that increase your mental health, too. Most important to mental health are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and folate. All of these have shown to help decrease depression and improve overall mental health. They are the most important vitamins that are consistently lacking in mental health patients.

There are also certain minerals linked to improved mental health. These include calcium, iron, iodine, chromium, selenium, and zinc. You can always see a doctor or nutritionist who can determine which vitamins and minerals your body needs more of. Adding these supplements to your diet will help improve your mental health. 

Hypervigilance vs. Realistic Choices

As with all things in life, there are times to be hypervigilant, such as in taking prescribed medications from your doctor, and there are times to be realistic, such as having a couple of homemade cookies now and then. Even if cookies aren’t part of your ideal diet, eaten sparingly and less frequently, the emotional happiness they bring balances out the physical and mental impact they have when you break your diet… just a little bit. 

It doesn’t have to be cookies, it can be whatever your thing is. The important part is that it is realistic to indulge in something every once in a while, rather than be too strict. It could also be that you break your diet while at a social event or on vacation. Ultimately, being hypervigilant about a diet can cause mental anguish, anyway. You need to find the right balance for you of eating nutritional foods that will boost your mental and physical health and sometimes eating foods that make you emotionally happy.

Many attribute Abraham Lincoln as having said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” However, we now also know that people are about as happy as they make up their diets to be. Making changes to your diet to improve your nutrition and add needed supplements can have both short and long-term positive effects on both your mental and physical health. Having good discipline, yet being realistic about your choices sets a standard for the rest of your life and shows that you care about yourself. After all, you are what you eat.

Learn more about healthy diet by calling Potomac Programs 1-855-809-0409 today. Remember, what you eat feeds your body and your mind.

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