Eating well not only contributes to your physical health, but also has a host of mental health benefits. Time and time again we hear "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" or "you are what you eat". Although these phrases may remind you of your childhood and being forced to eat your greens, there is a lot of truth to them.
Food As Fuel
Eating nutrient rich, whole foods supports brain function and development, which influences how we feel. Think of the food you eat as being the fuel for your day. If your fuel is low in nutrients you are going to feel sluggish and deprived resulting in cravings. Making adjustments to your diet can be difficult since many foods we eat are engineered to be addictive. It can take about 2 weeks of clean eating to reduce cravings for sugary and processed foods. While the adjustment can take time, you will being seeing the mental health benefits of a nutrient rich diet very quickly!
Keep It Clean
What do we mean by clean eating? This means a diet filled with minimally processed foods. It can help to stick to the outside edges of the grocery store where they keep the fruits, vegetables, and proteins such as chicken, fish, and eggs. It is important to read the ingredient list of products that claim to be natural or healthy. If you can't identify or pronounce the ingredients you likely shouldn't be eating it. A good rule of thumb is to stick to items with less than 5 ingredients on the list.
Studies show that high doses of processed sugars or artificial sweeteners are a contributing factor to worsening depression, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks. If you can improve your mental and physical health by making changes to the food you eat, why not? Little changes like reaching for a bag of almonds instead of a bag of Cheetos can have a ton of mental health benefits. Instead of drinking a can of Pepsi full of sugar, why not have a glass of ice cold water? Don't be too critical of yourself, in the beginning it can be hard to make these changes. Recognize the little wins and accept the slip-ups and soon there will be more wins and you won't be feeling deprived. Don't consider this a short term fix or a diet, consider this a lifestyle. With this in mind here is your homework: on your next grocery shop try spending 90% of your time in the outside edges of the store.