It’s no secret that the typical American diet is not always healthy. Processed foods, unhealthy fats and meats, and refined sugar are everywhere, so they can be hard to avoid. Our waistlines are expanding, and incidences of chronic, preventable disease are rising. In fact, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Most people know that a healthy diet and exercise can improve the number you see on the scale, but what you may not know is that a healthy diet can also heal your mind and body.
Introducing a good diet and exercise regimen can have an immediate impact on health. For example, controlling blood sugar levels by monitoring your sugar intake with the glycemic index can have major wellness benefits. The glycemic index measures how a food will affect blood sugar. Foods with a higher score on the index
require more effort for the body to process them. Eating food with a higher glycemic score creates spikes in blood sugar levels, and can even lead to type 2 diabetes and contribute to heart disease and weight gain. You can manage blood sugar levels by choosing foods that are lower on the glycemic index, like complex carbohydrates and lean proteins. Choosing these foods will result in a better mood, sharper focus, and improved overall health.
But balancing blood sugar levels is not the only way nutrition can help your well-being.
Nearly 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and nutrition is an important tool in treating it. Chronic pain is caused by inflammation in the body, so doctors recommend an “anti-inflammatory” diet. This is a diet based on Mediterranean-style eating, which centers on colorful vegetables and little to no animal protein or processed foods. Research has shown that when healthy eating is combined with exercise and stress reduction, some people experience decreased pain levels, so weight management is an important part of a chronic pain treatment plan. For severe cases of chronic pain, it may be beneficial to adopt a fully vegan, grain-free and meat-free diet.
Chronic pain and depression can go hand in hand. It’s good news, then, that depression can also be addressed through nutrition. Many people think depression is only an emotional issue, but research suggests that nutritional deficiencies are an important factor in the start, severity, and length of the depression. It’s recommended that depression sufferers consume healthy carbohydrates, “brain food” like omega 3s and amino acids, and a variety of vitamins and minerals including folate, B-12, chromium, and iron to help with their symptoms.
Drug and alcohol addiction treatment specialists are also beginning to consider nutrition as an integral part of therapy. Addiction to drugs or alcohol can lead to severe malnutrition due to poor eating habits and the body’s restricted ability to absorb nutrients. Therefore, a person in treatment must be carefully monitored. Their nutritional needs are likely to be different than those of a healthy individual. Blood sugar also plays an important role in addiction recovery. An addict’s diet is typically bereft of nutrients because it often includes high-sugar foods, processed foods, and high-fat dairy foods, and lacks protein, fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean proteins, and vitamins can radically improve the success of recovery.
Across the board, doctors and nutrition experts call for a diet that contains complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, amino acids, and vitamins. By choosing a diet that feeds your body well, not only can you avoid disease, you can also help cure it.