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What to Eat for Better Mental Health

Addiction and mental health issues often go together. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of adults and more than 60 percent of adolescents who seek help for a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue. Substance use issues often begin as a way of self-medicating the symptoms of a mental health issue. A strong recovery requires treating addiction and the mental health issue together, in an integrated way. It’s also important for long-term recovery to keep the mental health issue in check through regular therapy as well as lifestyle changes that include adequate sleep, regular exercise, and healthy diet. In fact, more and more studies are finding that what we eat has a significant effect on our mental health. The following are some guidelines for eating better for better mental health.


Minimize sugar.

There are a lot of weird diets on the Internet, from the all-fruit diet to the all-meat diet and everything in between. One thing you don’t see is the all-sugar diet. Perhaps the one thing vegans and paleo people can agree on is that sugar is bad. It leads to obesity, blood sugar swings, insulin resistance, and possibly type 2 diabetes. It’s also addictive. However, even when you set all of that aside, sugar itself appears to be bad for your mental health. One study found that men who ate a lot of sugar had a 23 percent higher risk of common mental disorders over a period of five years, even when controlling for other lifestyle factors like obesity. Sugar hides everywhere in processed food and it’s hard to avoid it entirely unless you cook all your meals from scratch. However, you can massively reduce your sugar intake by taking commonsense precautions, such as limiting sweets and replacing soft drinks with tea or water. 


Focus on whole foods. 

Maybe the other thing vegans and paleo people can agree on is that whole food is better. One meta-analysis of 16 studies, comprising more than 45,000 participants found that people who ate a diet of more whole foods, especially more fruits and vegetables, showed fewer symptoms of depression, including less hopelessness, trouble sleeping, and feelings of alienation. The diets included in the study were all different but the common theme appeared to be that more whole foods and fewer processed and prepackaged foods leads to better mental health.


Pay attention to what works for you.

Finally, pay attention to how food affects you. Keep a food journal in which you record what you ate and how you felt. It’s often hard to see patterns amid the normal ups and downs of daily life, but eventually you will notice if certain foods make you feel worse. 


Recovery from addiction is about more than just abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It also requires a change in lifestyle, including a healthier diet, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California, we know that mental health begins with physical health and we have designed a unique program to help men get into shape and build a healthy, sober life. Call us today at 855-202-2138 to learn more.

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