Updated: Jun 24
Do you love fast food, thick rich donuts, cake, cookies, boxed food when you are in a hurry or processed meats like certain bacons, hams, and barbecue meats injected with liquid smoke? Do you wake up with a pasty mouth? Have lots of body odor? Feel lethargic, down, and anxious? Chances are you are eating lots of processed foods and foods with preservatives and additives in them and it is taking a toll on your mood and health.
Total bummer, you say. And you might argue against going on a diet. Well, I won't tell you to go on a diet, because a diet is a short-term fix, and I am hinting at a healthier lifestyle.
Because what you eat makes a huge difference in how you feel, your health, and your mood. Anxiety and depression are just two mood disorder symptoms that an unhealthy diet may expose. Not to rule out trauma, stress, and life changes, but food has its role here too.
Nutrients are vital for a healthy brain and body and everything you put into your body will be used for fuel, cell regeneration, and the rebuilding of the house your brain lives in. You’ve heard the quote by Benjamin Franklin, Eat to live, don’t live to eat, and there is a reason that saying has merit.
Processed foods, you know the ones, those tasty, high sugar, boxed and full of extra salt, fatty foods that taste amazing, but have nearly zero nutritional value for the body. Most of the nutritional value of these foods have been added in by the aid of science. Refined foods such as modern flours and other boxed and processed foods are stripped of essential fiber and nutrients that our bodies need to rebuild cells and create the foundation for optimal health.
Michael Greger, M.D., FACLM in his book, How Not To Die, explains the importance of food on health and mood. He explains how vitamin deficiency, such as B-12 deficiency, can increase fatigue, along with memory problems, psychosis and mania. So pop a B-12 pill, you say. Not so fast. Greger also argues that studies have shown that B-vitamins (Folate) found naturally in leafy greens are the ones that decrease depression. He also posits that exercise also helps decrease depression. But vitamin supplements definitely have their own role to play in our health. Ask your doctor?
What if you don’t feel like getting up and moving around, getting outside and taking a walk? Greger says, do it anyway. You will notice a difference.
How can you spot processed foods? Start reading labels and you just might need to sit down and call your friendly scientist to find out what is actually in those tasty treats you’ve been eating for so long. Preservatives, colorings, additives, thickeners, and wheat, just to mention a few.
Eating foods as close to their natural state as possible is key, and those with as few ingredients in them as possible are vital for a healthier lifestyle.
Leafy green vegetables, fruit, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes have antioxidants in them and phytochemicals. These reduce oxidative stress and annihilate those pesky free radicals that cause tissue damage, memory impairment, and aging.
Jenna Birch reported that when you begin to eat healthier with more natural foods, the body may act a little different, such as feeling tired and irritable. The intestinal tract may argue by being constipated and uneasy due to the additional fiber from natural vegetables and fruit but it will adjust. Gradually intake more fiber. She also added that some foods may begin to taste too sweet as you decrease sugary foods, and you will probably lose weight, but you will begin to experience more energy.
So, what to do now? Well, avoid processed foods, preservatives and additives, and if possible, fried foods. Read the labels. Eat as close to natural as you can get. the least ingredients on the label, the better. Frozen vegetables with nothing added are definately a plus. Fresh fruit, especially in the afternoon to give you a boost of energy, and try experimenting with cooking fresh vegetables you may not have tried in years. Steam, bake, and air-fry the produce. Avoid making casseroles with added fat, crackers, and flour. Your body will adjust, and your sweet tooth will eventually wain. Raw vegetables might just become tasty again (zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and celery, to name a few).
And do not forget to exercise. Dr. Greger reported that even a little exercise will increase motivation and decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Does diet matter? Of course it does. You wouldn’t put white lightning in your car and expect to drive across country? It would lose about thirty percent of its giddy-up-and-go. Neither can we expect a long and healthy life if we don’t give our body what it needs to rebuild. So, boost your immune system and give more fresh vegetables and fruits a try.
Keep a journal of bodily changes and mood symptoms as you try to eat more fruits and vegetables and you might just be surprised at what you uncover. And don’t forget to move around, even if you don’t feel like it.
I’d love to hear about the changes you are or hope to implement and creative ways to exercise and rethink your recipes.
God bless and keep you until we meet again.
Lori C. Helms M.A., LMHC