A healthy diet is absolutely essential to being your best. More and more studies are finding compelling links between food and mood. Simply put, eating more nutrient rich whole foods and eating less sugary processed foods will make you feel better. Eating right will also help you reach your fitness goals. It’s hard to put in a good effort at the gym or recover quickly afterwards if you’re eating junk food. There’s an old saying that you can’t out exercise a bad diet and that’s just as true for mental health as it is for physical health. With that in mind, here are two ways to make food work for you in 2019.
Adopt the Mediterranean diet.
Several recent studies have found a Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. One meta-analysis of more than 41 studies found that people who followed a strict Mediterranean diet were 33 percent less likely to be diagnosed with depression. A Mediterranean diet is one rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and a variety of fresh vegetables, along with moderate amounts of olive oil and fatty fish. It’s thought that eating this way reduces inflammation, which recent studies have linked to depression and anxiety. Also, the high fiber content and low sugar moderate blood sugar swings, which can lead to irritability, anxiety, aches, and poor concentration. And since the Mediterranean diet is mainly about common sense eating, it can be easily adapted to meet your fitness goals.
A Mediterranean diet isn’t just about the food, though. It’s also about your attitude toward eating and life. If you take your time at meals and eat with friends, you enjoy it more and reduce stress. It’s a whole different approach from grabbing lunch in the car or eating at your desk while you work.
Try intermittent fasting.
First of all, if you’ve had any sort of eating disorder, fasting is probably not for you. While most guys think only women have eating disorders, plenty of men have eating disorders too. They just tend to look different. It’s mainly a problem with guys who have to make weight for competition, such as fighters or weightlifters, or get too preoccupied with cutting body fat.
If you haven’t had eating issues, you might benefit from intermittent fasting. More and more studies are finding benefits of short periods–usually 12 to 16 hours–of not eating. A major one is autophagy. When there’s no food available, you body starts looking around for something to eat. One of the first things your cells use for fuel is damaged bits from other cells. Missing a meal now and then gives your body a chance to clean out some of the junk that accumulates from normal living. When too much of this junk accumulates, it can damage your health and it might increase your risk of cancer.
Intermittent fasting also helps your metabolism. It makes your body more willing to burn fat, which it typically prefers to store. It also evens out blood sugar swings, which improves your mood and concentration.
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