Effective Diets for Good Mental Health
Nathan Lebowitz, M.D.
Good Nutrition and Exercise can make a difference for better health.
Dr. Nate E. Lebowitz, M.D., FACC, cardiologist in Fort Lee, NJ at the Advanced Cardiology Institute and assistant clinical professor at Columbia University of Medicine. His advice on health applies equally when addressing cardiac and mental health concerns. Physical diet is one piece of the puzzle when considering mental health. The advice here is sound and can help anyone to have better physical, and hence, better mental health.
Prevention, Diet, Nutrition, Exercise - This encouraging message is, "It really is possible to prevent recurrence…its return takes an aggressive effort on both of our parts. Your part her is twofold: understanding what we've discussed and agreed upon, and then sticking with it. In many cases there are really are two paths to take; generally, however, only one will lead to a longer, healthier life."
Smoking - [Your Health and Mental Health]
It's imperative to talk about smoking first. It is an incredible killer, far worse than I was even taught in my medical training. If heart disease kills on in every two men and women, then smoking accounts for approximately half of those deaths. That's staggering!!! Research strongly suggests that it is not a question of if, but when and how smoking will cause death or disability. After the staggering risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers linked to or caused by smoking now number in the double digits. [Quit smoking now!]
Finally, emphysema is a terrible disease- a progressive inability to breathe as the lungs are slowly destroyed from within. Of all the quitting methods-hypnosis, drugs, acupuncture-there is one method shown to be one hundred times more effective. A frank conversation between the patient and a trusted personal physician is by far the most successful of the smoking cessation methods. It is important that the doctor not treat you as a second-class citizen for being a smoker.
smoking can make a positive difference in both physical and mental health
Photo: Alberto Ferrero from Torino, Italy
Cannot be reproduced.
Diet, Exercise, Weight Loss are of Importance
Before prescribing a drug [for high blood pressure and cholesterol in this case, but by extension (AYCNP comment), as it applies to mental health]. Dietary changes, exercise, weight loss and nutritional supplements are recommended. Medication or nutritional supplements are not a substitute for health eating habits, exercise, weight loss, and quitting smoking.
Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. [Being] more aggressive with prevention methods, and screening people with diabetes earlier [is efficacious]. Adult onset diabetes is very often the end result of a spiral that starts years earlier with poor diet and elevated body weight.
[Certain atypical antipsychotic drugs also contribute to higher weight gain and a higher risk and incidence of diabetes.]
A diet high in simple carbohydrates (carbs made from white flour, etc.) can start a process that may lead to diabetes years later. These carbs are easily digested, quickly releasing a high level of glucose into the bloodstream; this temporarily provides energy and alertness. Wherever glucose goes, insulin must follow, as it enables sugar to enter cells to be used as energy. A high spike of glucose from simple carbs will therefore lead to a high spike of insulin. This pushes sugar into cells, and "crashes" our blood sugar down, causing lethargy, poor concentration, and ravenous hunger. This insulin peak is also toxic to arteries, and as if that wasn't bad enough. Lays down fat in the abdominal region (an area of fat distribution particularly linked with coronary artery disease). The fat deposited in the abdominal region is made up of fat cells that are more likely to be "insulin resistant," this requires the body to produce yet more insulin to force the sugar into cells. This leads to more arterial toxicity, and yet more abdominal fat, with yet more insulin resistant cells.
Eating healthy foods and a healthy lifestyle can make a positive difference in most mental health disorders.
- This vicious cycle, called "The Metabolic Syndrome" can lead ultimately to "impaired fasting glucose," a pre-diabetic state, and ultimately to true diabetes. The elevated circulating glucose and higher body fat lead to higher cholesterol, high blood pressure, disease of the kidneys, eyes and nerves, and damaged arteries.
This all leads to a very high risk of coronary artery disease. Before diabetes occurs, the metabolic syndrome must be aggressively reversed with weight loss, strict cholesterol lowering, exercise, and the strict avoidance of "bad" carbohydrates (more about his next).
A Healthy Diet for Better Health [and Mental Health]
- A "healthy diet" does not have to be as hard as you might think. Believe it or not, it is EASY TO FOLLOW; this is striking when compared to most popular diets. One of them claims that ALL carbohydrates are bad, and eliminates them almost completely, while allowing a diet high in saturated fat and meat. Such low carbohydrate intake is extremely hard to follow and maintain. In addition, allowing so much fat (especially saturated fat) intake is clearly wrong. There are thousands of scientific studies linking saturated fat to heart disease; eliminating the “good carbs can result in colon diseases such as diverticulis and colon cancer. There are GOOD and BAD forms of carbohydrates. Simply avoid only the "bad" carbs. And don't worry; in a page or two you'll know which is which.
Another scientifically sound diet would have us eat extremely little fat. This is also very hard to achieve and maintain. Here as well--there is good evidence that many body systems, especially cell membranes and the brain, require some degree of fat to function normally. Although saturated fat (fully hydrogenated- identified in the nutrition label) fat and partially hydrogenated oils (identified only in the ingredients section) are extremely bad for us [Ghee in Indian cultures Ghee- a highly processed form of butter loaded with saturated fat], there are clearly some [other] forms of fat that are not harmful, and some that are even extremely beneficial.
Finally, protein comes in good and bad varieties. One example is very much in the news these days; and excellent research study demonstrated that an intake of 20-25 grams daily of protein form soy could lead to dramatic reductions in heart disease. Protein from meat sources, however, (excluding fish and poultry) seems to be toxic to human arteries. Soy comes in many varieties, from the soybean in the pod (edamame) to tofu, tempeh, soy burgers, soy milk (7 grams of protein per cup ) high protein cereals, etc.
Those who have had or have mental health difficulties should cut out
alcohol from their lifestyle. Photo: Martin Ortmann, April 23, 2006.
Breakfast and Avoiding Bad Carbs
How do we put these dietary concepts to work in the real world. Let's start with avoiding "bad" carbs as much as possible; this includes almost anything made from white flour-white bread, rolls, donuts, cakes, cookies, muffins, etc. These foods are easy to digest, and there release their sugar (glucose) quickly, leading to a "sugar high". As we have learned, wherever glucose goes, insulin must follow. A high spike of glucose there leads to a high spike of insulin, what the resulting abdominal fat deposits, artery toxicity and pre-diabetic Metabolic Syndrome.
A breakfast from "bad" carbs [which is what school breakfasts are these days-Pop Tarts for breakfast???!] (white bread, rolls, muffins, etc.) can lead to a bad morning, with sugar highs and lows, decreased concentration, and ravenous hunger by late morning. Therefore, for lunch we will grab anything within reach, usually more bad carbs [which is also true of many or most of school lunches as well], repeating the cycle for the afternoon. So, not only do we have a bad day, but we also gain weight, develop a higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart and vascular diseases.
A different breakfast could lead to a dramatically different day, with more energy, better concentration, no sugar highs and lows, and less hunger, in addition to a significantly lower risk of future disease. Breakfast recommendations-whole grain cereals a good source of fiber and good carbs, preferably without added sugar-(Kashi Go Lean Crunch, Shredded Wheat, Oatmeal-slow cooking whole oat such as Hodgon's Mill and McCann's Irish Oatmeal). Also, using whole grain bread-whole wheat bread [not just "wheat bread" which is often white flour mixed with some whole wheat.] The glucose (sugar ) in this case is released slowly at a lower, more constant level. This provides better concentration, better energy, and less hunger all morning.
A healthy lunch - By lunch, we are able to make a more rational choice. The typical American salad is boring-iceberg lettuce and tomato with a high fat dressing. A better choice is a salad characteristic of the Mediterranean region. This starts with the dark greens-romaine, argula, and spinach, followed by fresh sliced vegetables-tomato, mushroom, and anything you like, as long as it is a fresh, health vegetable. Two of the best are broccoli and asparagus, full of antioxidants, which help to scavenge the free radicals that can lead to cancer and heart disease. These vegetables can be raw or lightly steamed. I advise you to buy organic vegetables to avoid pesticide residue; if you cannot, then do not to forget to wash them thoroughly.
Next, some of the healthy nuts can be added, such as flax sees, sunflower seeds and walnuts; flax seeds can easily be ground in a small coffee grinder, and spread over salads and cereal. It is an excellent way to increase your dietary intake of the essential omega-3 fats.
Then add some of the best carbs of all-legumes-which included kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, split peas, etc.
[In the Indian culture various dals are used regularly and are an excellent source of protein-Indian sweets by contrast-are full of refined carbohydrates, the type that leads to diabetes, this can be especially true for children, regularly eating Indian sweets can lead to childhood diabetes.] Finally, I would add a healthy source of protein such as tofu (from soy), or grilled fresh salmon, tuna, or chicken. 3 capsules of olive oil with a little balsamic vinegar is an excellent dressing. [A vegetarian diet is an excellent diet as well.]
Exercise - And now, let's talk about exercise. It is far more important than we might imagine. A post-menopausal woman who simple performs 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise five or six times per week reduces her risk of cardiovascular disease by 50%. That's amazing-no pill can do that!
A similar benefit accrues to men as well. We work 8 hours or more in order to live. Why not add 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily so we can really live? Aerobic exercise can take any form- a brisk walk, treadmill, elliptical trainer, (no joint trauma) stairs, etc.
That's amazing - No pill can do that!
For people over 65 to 70, walking is by far the best form of exercise. For some reason, physical exertion as part of work seems to provide less benefit. Men or over 50 or women over 70 or anyone with a history of vascular or heart disease, ought to have a stress test prior to initiating an aerobic exercise program.
Conclusion of Effective Diets for Good Mental Health: It does take some work and willpower. Being very aggressive when it comes to prevention, takes an effort on every front..., stopping smoking, getting regular exercise, maintaining a health diet and body weight, and some for of mind-body exercise (a hobby, keeping a journal, psychotherapy, massage,
Bible reading.] ) The earlier we start in life, the easier it is, but it is never too late. We need to be just as powerful [as the disease]. It takes partnership and communication between doctor and patient-rare commodities these days. End of article from Dr. Lebowitz. Reprinted with permission.
Pages Related to Effective Diets for Mental Health
Improving Your Eating Habits
How to Lose Weight Safely
Potatoes not Prozac -sugar sensitivity. Nutrition for depression
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Quitting Smoking
Mental Illness Recovery - National Alliance for Mental Illness - NAMI
Psychiatric Labeling - The Medical Model of Mental Health - Controversies and adjustments in our viewpoint