Food for Thought

A balanced diet does more than improve the numbers on the scale. Eating well and getting plenty of exercise may help you beat the odds when fighting drug addiction, disease, or depression. Read on for ways your body uses what you eat for your best interests.

Cope with addiction

Addictive behaviors may be best battled with food on the front lines of recovery. Addiction is a mental health issue and if your brain isn’t receiving enough nutrition, it can latch onto behaviors such as drug use, alcohol consumption, compulsive gambling, or overeating. Many addicts unconsciously learn to depend on their chosen vice because of the way it makes them feel without realizing they may be able to get the same mood enhancement through food. Certain fats, including DHA and EPA, help the brain release feel-good chemicals. Consuming a rich and diverse diet comprised of carbohydrates, a range of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and lean meats, can help you overcome your unhealthy cravings. A well-nourished brain is better equipped to deal with stress and anxiety, which are two major reasons people enter into an addiction in the first place.

Relieve chronic pain

An anti-inflammatory diet is the most natural way to reduce systemic pain. Inflammation, which is the body’s response to environmental toxins, causes pain and may trigger other issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Most physicians recommend “eating the rainbow” every day for optimum health. This means filling your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, which are not only delicious, but deliver a powerful punch of vitamins in each bite. Processed grains and refined sugars should be consumed in moderation and red meat should be limited to once or twice a week. A whole food diet has the additional benefits of helping you lose weight. Obesity is a significant contributing factor to muscle aches and pains and joint stiffness.
Image courtesy Pixabay

Improve your mood

Like addiction, depression is closely related to your health, and specifically that of your brain. It is a mental illness that can impair your ability to interact with others and carry out daily activities. Chronic depression is often treated with pharmaceuticals, which can cause a host of unwanted side effects. Food, however, can help boost your mood without resorting to potentially dangerous medications; likewise, certain foods can make you feel worse about yourself. Mood enhancing foods include chicken, spinach, and almonds, which provide Vitamin B12 and folate; milk and enriched cereals, which deliver high percentages of vitamin D; and salmon, nut oils, and halibut, which provide omega 3 fatty acids. Each of these nutrients are known natural antidepressants. Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderation, is the most delicious way to provide your body with antioxidants and trigger the release of endorphins in your brain.

Clear your skin

While there is no definitive link between eating greasy foods and acne, it’s well understood that food does affect our skin. Olive oil contains polyphenols that can mitigate damage from free radicals. A diet rich in tomatoes can actually improve your skin’s resistance to harmful UV rays, which have a damaging effect on your skin. Eating walnuts – a source of alpha linoleic acid – may reduce the dry and scaly skin associated with eczema.

Eating a balanced diet is a great way to start the next chapter of your life on the right foot. However, experts agree that adults need at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity every week to reap the most health benefits. Exercise, like many of the foods above, also triggers the release of endorphins, which can further help achieve your overall mental and physical health and wellness goals.

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Paige Johnson considers herself to be a fitness nerd. She is passionate and committed to helping other people take care of themselves. Ms. Johnson writes for LearnFit. She has a great love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist.


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