Green juice by morning, salad by afternoon, Buddha bowl by evening. You’ve got the healthy routine down (mostly), so why are you still feeling sluggish at some points in the day, anxious when you’re trying to get some sleep, or even slightly depressed on the weekends, making you sometimes not want to get off the couch for an entire Sunday?
Most of us know the correlation between a healthy body and healthy mind and do our best to make sure we’re getting our greens, but is it enough? If you’re still not feeling your best or are struggling to keep your mental and emotional health from up and down swings, then maybe the answer is no.
Two of the newest ways nutritionists and doctors have started to help us become more aware of the correlation between diet and mental wellness is through implementing intermittent fasting, and trying a reduction diet. Neither is for the faint of heart, but they both can have massive health benefits, not just for body but for mind as well.
Less Is More, At Specific Times
Intermittent fasting is fairly new in the mainstream wellness world. Research and studies being done are showing some amazing benefits, such as reducing insulin resistance, increasing the growth of new neurons and protecting the brain from damage, and inflammation reduction (inflammation being a key driver of all sorts of common diseases in both body and mind).
One of the most common intermittent fasting schedules is called the 16:8. Simply explained, you eat within an 8-hour window and then don’t (outside of water or unsweetened coffee or tea) for the remaining 16 hours. Many find if they tack 16 hours onto whenever they eat dinner at night, they can achieve the window by simply waiting to eat until around lunch time. For example, your last meal is at 8 p.m. and so you would eat at noon the next day. In the beginning, this takes a lot of mental strength, and it isn’t for everyone, but intermittent fasting is shown to improve mental clarity and boost productivity. You should consult your doctor or nutritionist prior to trying a fasting approach to eating.
Resetting Your System
The other, even more mindful approach to making the connection between what you put into your body and how it directly affects your mood and mental wellness is through trying a reduction diet. Start by trying to eat clean for two to four weeks. In order to do this, you need to cut out all processed foods and sugars. Many nutritionists also recommend cutting out dairy and even grains during this time. After you essentially reset your system, you slowly reintroduce each thing, one by one, and document how you are feeling. Try keeping a journal of your moods and physical feelings throughout your day and night, and checking in at least three to five times during reintroduction.
A good resource for this approach is the Whole 30 diet. This can give you ideas for foods you can and can’t eat while you’re in the reduction stage, support you while on the journey, and provide you a library of information and tips.
If leveling-up your mental health game is a priority, trying one or both of these approaches might give you insight into your mind’s personal response to sugar, processed foods, and dairy. Remember to get the go-ahead from your doctor before diving in!