Diet and nutrition
Your state of mind depends on the physical health of your brain. If your brain is in poor shape, then you will be more vulnerable to the effects of life stress and more likely to develop mental illness.
Recent research indicates that many if not all mental illnesses are associated with a state of physical inflammation of the brain, where the brain is in a state of 'oxidative stress' (to understand oxidative stress, imagine what happens to an apple when you cut it in half and leave it for a few hours, or what happens to a piece of iron when you leave it out in the rain). There are some things that we can do with our diet to protect our brains oxidative stress:
- Consume foods containing anti-oxidants. Antioxidants are found in a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid sugar in your diet
- If you are overweight, lose weight
Fish oil contains Omega-3 EFAs (essential fatty acids) which are essential building blocks for brain cells (neurones) and the connections between brain cells (synapses). Omega-3's are probably especially important when your brain is growing and developing rapidly (children and teenagers) or when your brain needs to recover from the damage of oxidative stress (when you have symptoms of a mental illness). A recommended dose of fish oil is 4 g daily, but some researchers suggests that a diet with oily fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) several times a week is just as good.
Depression may be associated with low levels of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin, and your body makes serotonin from the amino acid Tryptophan. Sources of tryptophan include red meat, seafood, soybeans and eggs.
Weight loss and weight control
It is quite simple (but not always easy):
- Completely avoid food with added sugar: cakes, lollies, soft drinks. Most processed foods also have lots of added sugar.
- Avoid animal fats: fatty meat, cheese, cream
- Avoid alcohol (it's just as bad as sugar)
- Limited amounts of grain-based foods: bread, pasta, rice, noodles, also potatoes.
- Eat lots of protein: fish, lean meat, beans, eggs
- Eat lots of vegetable fats: nuts, olive oil
- Small portions, no second helpings