Monthly Wellness Corner - October 2023

October 5, 2023

The Role of Diet & Nutrition on Health & Well-Being

While the role of diet and nutrition on physical health is clear in many areas, the role of diet and nutrition on mental health and well-being is very complex and has yet to be fully understood. This short article will look at some relationships between the two and offer some suggestions on how to enhance both. Perhaps something mentioned here will spark you to look further into the details and the research on a particular approach or diet that will significantly help you in your life!

In studying and practicing different approaches of nutrition and diet and its effect on health and overall wellbeing for many years myself, I think it is very safe to say that each person must find their own way. That is perhaps not what many would like to hear about this topic. It is certainly easier to have a prescriptive approach to eating - a set program of what to eat and when to eat it. However, there is not one approach to diet and nutrition that will fit everyone, and some approaches clearly do not fit for many. That said, there are some general guidelines that seem to hold up as true for most people regardless of the type of diet you choose to be on.

Many diet approaches have received lots of press in recent years – the Paleo Diet (Caveperson diet), Keto Diet, Mediterranean Diet, High Protein, Low Protein, High Healthy Fat, Low Carbohydrate, and others. It can all be quite confusing and sometimes contradictory! This is another reason why it is best for each person to find out what works best for them and their body – perhaps with the help of their physician and a nutritionist.

So what should we be consuming? We know a lot about what food and substances are not good for most of us. According to an article by the NIH, “Poor nutrition may be a causal factor in the experience of low mood, and improving diet may help to protect not only the physical health but also the mental health of the population.”

“Healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with better mental health than “unhealthy” eating patterns, such as the Western diet. The effects of certain foods or dietary patterns on glycemia, immune activation, and the gut microbiome may play a role in the relationships between food and mood.”

A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, and lean protein such as chicken and fish, and low in red meat and unhealthy fats such as most seed oils. Data from the Nurses' Health Study did find an association between depression and a diet rich in sugar-sweetened soft drinks, refined grains, and red meat. Soft drinks are number one on the top 6 (my list) of the worst things you can put in your body for many reasons.

Top 6 Worst List:

  1. Soft drinks – One of the most acidifying things you can put in your body. Virus, unhealthy bacteria and cancer cells thrive in an acid body system. Virus, unhealthy bacteria, and cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline body system. Sugar is very acidifying. And many other reasons support not drinking soda such as excess sugar which is an empty calorie (devoid of any nutritional value) and sugar spikes bold sugar levels, artificial sweeteners which have been linked to some cancers, other chemicals in soda, and other reasons.
  2. Seed oils – For most people, seed oils cause inflammation in the body and even in the brain in some cases. Many degenerative diseases are being linked to inflammation in the body and the brain.
  3. Almost All Fast Food – Sorry about that. Almost all fast food is high in seed oils, high in unhealthy fat, high in salt and primarily made up of GMO foods and includes the meat from animals who were fed a GMO food diet and were likely given hormones and antibiotics.
  4. Refined carbohydrates – Almost all breads, bread products and desserts – double sorry- often have GMO ingredients, are high in unhealthy fats, are high in empty calories, will spike your blood sugar levels, and can damage the gut microbiome.
  5. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – The studies done on rats and mice fed only a GMO diet are quite scary. No long-term studies by independent sources (outside the chemical companies who make GMO foods) have proven GMOs are safe for human consumption – Yikes!
  6. Smoking and alcohol – Both very acidifying to the body and both have a host of other problems that seriously affect physical and mental health.

Top 6 best List:

  1. Organic fruits – high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and feed the healthy bacteria in your gut that makes up your gut microbiome.
  2. Unrefined carbohydrates – such as organic veggies – are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
  3. Organic Coconut oil, organic olive oil and organic avocado oil – Are all high in monosaturated fat (the healthy fat) and seem to have a protective factor against some diseases. Of course, in moderation.
  4. Healthy proteins such as organic meat, organic poultry, wild caught fish, organic yogurt, organic protein powder – All high in healthy protein minus the hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, and GMOs.
  5. Organic whole grains and organic legumes – High in fiber, aids in healthy digestion, high in some vitamins and minerals, feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.
  6. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh - help promote a healthy gut microbiome (some recent studies point to your gut microbiome as making up about half of your body’s immune system).

Intermittent fasting has also received lots of press lately and it is not a diet per say, it is limiting your eating window to a certain timeframe of day – eating in only a 10-hour, 9-hour or 8-hour eating window. Initial studies look very promising - not eating outside the eating window seems to make it easier for many people to lose weight, have more energy and need less sleep! WOW!

I highly recommend looking into any of these items that may have sparked your interest. Find out more about them and see how it can help you with your physical health and your overall well-being. As always, check with your doctor before starting any new diet or nutritional approach.

To your health and well-being!

-Michael Morellino, Penny Lane Centers