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Todd R. Renda, Social Security Disability and SSI Disability Attorney

Why Eating Healthy Can Be Important For Managing Your Disability

You may have heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.” As it turns out, that’s not so far from the truth, because a healthy diet is key to a healthy mind. When medication or therapy alone isn’t enough for your mental health, adjusting your lifestyle could help. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, certain foods may help improve your symptoms, making it easier to manage your day-to-day disability.

Here are some tips for eating healthy to boost your mental health.

Probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that improve gut health by encouraging the production of good bacteria and other beneficial flora. What you eat can influence your mental health because the gut has a complex network that communicates directly with the brain to regulate moods.

The gut produces approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin, a feel-good chemical. This means that many problems with mood are related to one’s diet. According to a recent study, the consumption of foods rich with probiotics can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Additionally, certain types of probiotics can potentially alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

Therefore, to help reduce symptoms of depression and/or anxiety you may want to eat plenty of fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurt, all of which are rich in probiotics. Also, some cheeses, certain olives, and miso are good sources of probiotics. Talk to a certified nutritionist or registered dietician to learn more about which foods would be best for you.

Antioxidants

When the body encounters certain stressful or environmental conditions, the body produces free radicals. Free radicals occur when oxygen molecules split into single atoms that have no paired electrons. Because of this, such atoms constantly seek electrons to pair with, and they end up attacking the body’s cells and DNA. Free radicals have been linked to central-nervous system diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and genetic degenerative diseases, and other conditions. Ultimately, antioxidants can help guard against free radicals.

Antioxidants also cover a broad range of substances found in many different foods, and each antioxidant reacts with the body in different ways. Vitamin A, for example, can help vision and kidney health. Vitamin C helps the body repair damaged tissues and aids the immune system. There are many other antioxidants, too, such as beta-carotene (found in carrots), selenium (found in mushrooms and seafood), and manganese (found in certain nuts).

Perhaps the most important is the fact that there is a link between antioxidants and mental health. When used in conjunction with medication, antioxidants have the potential to lower anxiety. Other studies have shown that antioxidant levels are lower in adults that suffer from depression, and that raising antioxidant levels helps to lessen symptoms.

There are many foods that have antioxidants. Some foods with high amounts of antioxidants include dark chocolate, certain fruits (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), leafy greens (cabbage), fish, and beans.

 

Protein

Long chains of amino acids form together to create proteins, essential components in the body’s function. Proteins help regulate muscle mass, your metabolism, and are necessary for life. Additionally, protein helps regulate satiety and mood. Because of this, proteins can be some of the best foods to boost mental health.

Proteins are also important to mental health because the neurotransmitters required for brain function come from the amino acids that make up protein. Tyrosine is a component of dopamine, an important part of the reward system in the brain, and tryptophan helps synthesize serotonin, an important part of mood regulation.

It makes sense that to help regulate your mood, you should regulate your protein intake. Studies have shown that high-protein snacks can help aid mood and enhance cognition. Moreover, protein (whey protein, especially) helps lower the body’s level of cortisol, thereby diminishing the effects of the body’s main stress hormone.

Various proteins are abundant in different types of foods, but it’s important to consume the nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. When a protein contains all nine amino acids, that protein is called a complete protein. Foods that contain complete proteins include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs. Incomplete proteins are in certain vegetables, grains, nuts/seeds, and beans/legumes. If you’re vegetarian or vegan and cannot get your complete proteins from animal products, try combining grains with vegetables, or nuts with legumes.

Healthy Fats

Your body requires healthy fats to survive, but it’s important to know which fats to consume and which ones to stay away from. Unsaturated fats are healthier for the body than saturated and trans fats. The two types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

One important type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are called essential amino acids because they are required to survive and are not made by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bolster heart health, lower triglycerides, lower bad cholesterol, and even lower severity of depression. This is probably because omega-3 fatty acids are quite literally a part of cell membranes, so it makes sense that they’re crucial in regulating mental health. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in seafood, especially oily fish like salmon.

Monounsaturated fats are also important. They help regulate weight, reduce the risk of certain diseases, have some anti-inflammatory properties, and can help regulate mood. You can find monounsaturated fats in nuts, oils, seeds, avocados, and eggs.

Trans fats and saturated fats are less healthy. For instance, while trans fats are technically unsaturated, they contribute to high levels of bad cholesterol, low levels of good cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats are even worse. With enough saturated fats, the brain’s dopamine signaling is disrupted. This significantly impairs proper mood regulation and may contribute to problems with depression and anxiety.

 

Not all fats are created equal, so know what you’re eating to stay healthy and boost your mental health. Again, speaking with a certified nutritionist or registered dietician would be a great resource to help you put together a meal plan best for your body type.

Healthy Sugars

Just as there are healthy and unhealthy fats, there are healthy and unhealthy sugars. The key thing to be mindful of is whether the sugar in your food is natural or added. Natural sugars occur organically in foods like fruit, milk, and other unprocessed foods. When you eat these foods, you get naturally occurring sugar with essential vitamins and minerals along with fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar, and prevents blood sugar spikes.

Foods with added sugars often have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber stripped away. This means that your bloodstream absorbs the sugar more quickly, leading to blood sugar spikes. Long-term elevated blood sugar levels correlate with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, nervous system problems, vision problems, cardiovascular problems, and other serious conditions. In fact, high levels of sugar intake are linked with increased risk of depression and reduced ability to learn and form new memories.

Therefore, be mindful of your sugar intake. Get your sugar from natural sources and try to avoid foods and drinks that have added sugars. While soda and candy are sweet to eat, they can be very negative for your health.

Need Help with your Disability Benefits?

While eating healthy is important for managing your disability, it can be difficult to do so without the right medical and financial resources. If you need help acquiring social security disability benefits, contact Renda Law in Tacoma. Todd Renda works hard to help ensure your initial application or appeal meets the designated requirements set by the Social Security Administration and will fight to get, and keep, the benefits you deserve. Click here for more information or to schedule a FREE consultation with Todd Renda today!