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Paleo Delivery and Mental Health
It’s mental health awareness month, and we wanted to talk about how healthy eating can help promote mental health as well as bodily health. If you’re someone who hates the hassle of buying ingredients at the store and slaving over a meal after a hard day of work, the paleo delivery system is a great option for you. We make healthy eating just as easy as eating junk food, so you have no excuse not to give your body the nutrients it needs.
We stand by our mission, because we want you to be the best version of yourself. We’re not saying that healthy eating can cure depression—there are several other complicated factors that go into mental health (including genetic disposition). It’s not an easy fix like weight loss, but several studies have found that a poor diet does correlate with depression. These ‘poor diets’ include foods like processed meats, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products. ‘Healthy diets’ are defined by fruits, vegetables, and fish.
Healthy Diet as Disease Prevention
Healthy diets help prevent diseases. For example, those who follow the Mediterranean diet (fruits, veggies, fish, limited meat and dairy) have lower rates of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Of course, there are several other variables that could be influencing this correlation. However, scientists are realizing that the mind and body are more closely linked than we had previously thought. This article from Big Think gives an in-depth analysis of this linkage. More than causing depression, “eating unhealthy foods…contribute directly to the biological and emotional states associated with depression”. Unhealthy eating habits causes our body to interpret nutrient deficiency as the consequence of a disease. As a result, “it releases proteins that attempt to combat the perceived intruder and cause subtle inflammation, similar to the swelling of a healing wound”. A healthy diet keeps your body operating the way it’s supposed to.
A study that tracked the effects of the Mediterranean diet on Europeans found that those who stuck with the diet (vs. those who adapted to a western diet with more sugar and fat) were half as likely to develop depression during the time of the study. There’s a push to experiment with healthy dieting to prevent depression. In fact, a trail program by the Defense Department provides nutrient rich foods to soldiers with PTSD. James E. Gangswisch, PhD, conducted a study on whether foods with a higher glycemic index (GI) could be associated with depression. The GI scale ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they raise your blood sugar. Gangswisch remembered how eating lots of sugar as a child made him feel down the next day and wondered whether there was an actual correlation. According to an article by TIME, Gangswisch and his team “looked at data from food questionnaires and a scale that measures symptoms of depressive disorders from postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study”. The study gathered data from around 70,000 women who did not suffer from depression at the start of the study. Their baseline measurements were taken between 1994 and 1998. A follow-up measurement was taken three years later. They found that those with diets higher on the glycemic index (added sugar and refined grains), had greater odds of depression. Certain foods actually had a preventative effect against depression, such as fiber, whole grains, whole fruit, vegetables and lactose.
Added sugars were a major contributing factor to depression. The overconsumption of sugars and refined starches is a risk factor for inflammation and cardiovascular diseases. Since these afflictions are linked to the development of depression, it reinforces the correlation between an unhealthy diet and depression. TIME also points out that eating junk food “could also lead to insulin resistance, which has been linked to cognitive deficits similar to those found in people with major depression”. While it may be difficult to convince someone with depression to give up a diet that they find comfortable (and may even offer them some temporary happiness), the change is worth it in the long run.
Junk Food Addiction
The worst part about junk food is how addictive it can be. Even though your body should naturally regulate the quantity of food you eat (ie: feeling full) and the energy that you burn, food manufacturers have found a way to trick the body—junk food. These ‘hyper-rewarding’, processed foods stimulate a rewarding response so strong that it leads to overeating. This is done through a knowledge of the ‘sensory-specific satiety’ (describes how big flavors overwhelm your brain). To trick the brain, manufacturers create foods with complex formulas that pique your taste buds just enough without overwhelming them. This keeps your brain from saying ‘enough’, leading to overeating. Potato chips are one of the most addictive foods out there. They contain all three of the magic ingredients for addiction: sugar, salt and fat. Foods high in fat and sugar release the stress hormone cortisol, stimulating the appetite for calorie-dense foods. This addiction is even worse if you don’t get any exercise.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact for you: sugar is more addictive than cocaine. A study in 2007 found that a majority of the rats in their sample chose sugar over water and cocaine. Even the rats that were already addicted to cocaine switched to sugar once it became an option. They were also more willing to work for sugar than cocaine. An article from Mercola speculates that the sweet receptors (two protein receptors located on the tongue), which evolved in ancestral times when humans didn’t eat as much sugar, have not yet adapted to the current high-sugar consumption. Because of this, you brain received excessive rewards signals. In turn, these signals override normal self-control mechanisms, creating addiction.
The best way to combat depression and addiction through your diet is to replace processed foods with homemade meals. The meals should be prepared from scratch and should use only whole ingredients. This eliminates refined sugars, processed fructose, preservatives, and dyes. Instead, you’ll get your nutrients from healthy fat. Your craving for sugar should dissipate as you continue avoiding it. Your new diet should consist of whole foods with high-quality, healthy fat. A Paleo diet consists of nuts and seeds, healthy oils (olive, walnut, flax seed, etc.), eggs, fish and seafood, fresh fruits/vegetables, and protein.
If you want positive mental health, eat foods that make you feel good! Caffeine can trigger panic attacks in people with anxiety disorders, so lay off the sugary drinks. Dehydration can cause mood changes on top of fatigue, so make sure to get plenty of water each day (8 glasses). An alternative for drinks high in caffeine is tea, which has a smaller amount of caffeine and contains anti-oxidants to prevent cell damage.
An increased intake of folate has been found to lower your risk of depression and is especially important for pregnant women. On top of being mental medicine, it also helps your hair, skin, nails, eyes, and liver. Food with high amounts of folate include leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
Low Vitamin D levels are also linked with depression. Vitamin D comes from sunlight, which is why those who live in overcast cities are more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This type of depression normally starts in the fall and lasts through the winter. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty acids have been found to help in the treatment of depression, as well as having a mood-stabilizing effect. They also help young people with ADHD and boost the power of antidepressants. These fatty acids can be found in oily fish (mackerel, anchovies, etc.), walnuts, flax, olive oil, basil, and dark green leafy vegetables. Oily fish should be eaten twice a week to ensure you get enough Omega-3 Fatty acid.
P.S. DO NOT skip breakfast. This can lead to ‘brain fog’ throughout the day.
Paleo delivery is a great option for those seeking easy, quick meals that can help with their mental health as well as their physical health. A Paleo diet decreases inflammatory stress on the body. Foods like dairy and processed grains cause the body to build up extra fluid, thereby dampening the immune system. Your other organs have to work harder as a result, and your joints have to deal with extra weight. When you’re body isn’t operating at full capacity, it becomes more vulnerable to diseases. Even worse, inflammation at a chronic level can cause the body to attack itself. This is called an autoimmune disease. Paleo delivery also ensures blood sugar levels are maintained. By cutting out grains, processed sugars and starchy foods, you don’t have to deal with blood sugar highs and lows. Instead, the lean meats, nuts and non-starchy vegetables that comes as part of the Paleo diet will allow the pancreas to perform better.
These are the physical effects of adopting a Paleo diet, but the mental effects can be even more important. Take the time to access whether your own diet might be contributing to depression and anxiety. Step back and ask yourself whether you’re suffering from a junk food addiction. If the answer to either of these questions is yes, consider Evolve Paleo’s Paleo delivery as a possible solution to your problems.