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Many people have thoughtfully considered the physical benefits of the Paleo diet, but what about its impact on mental health? There are, in fact, advantages that the Paleo lifestyle can do both to the brain and one’s overall mental wellness.
Although the Paleo diet can be traced back before ancient civilization has started, the term was first coined in the 1970s by a gastroenterologist named Walter Voegtlin. He proposed the idea that our ancestors who lived 10,000 years ago thrived in a diet consisting of whole, unprocessed meat, fruit, and vegetables that they directly accessed from the immediate environment. He called this the Stone-Age diet, which is now popularly known as the Paleo diet.
At first, the Paleo diet presented many benefits, especially for people wanting to lose weight or improve their athletic performance. The consumption of whole foods led people to have a cleaner lifestyle, making them shed the unwanted fat, gain muscle mass, and prevent the health hazards of processed sugar and carbohydrates.
However, there’s another side of the coin that a Paleo diet entails. Apparently, having this semi-restricted set of foods can also have an impact in our brain activity. Below are some of the food groups allowed in the Paleo diet and how it can benefit our mental health.
Fish is good for the brain.
The brain is comprised of 60% fat, and this is why fatty acids are essential for proper brain function. Without these fatty acids, the brain may have problems in managing neurotransmitters, creating new synapses, or responding to stimuli. The lack of fatty acids in the body is related to mood disorders, memory loss, and other degenerative neural problems–think Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, or Multiple Sclerosis.
Fatty fish such as salmon contain these essential fatty acids called DHA or omega-3. Since we cannot produce DHA on our own, we have to obtain these fatty acids in our diet. These fatty acids coat the brain’s cells to keep them healthy and responsive. The Paleo diet is a great way to incorporate fatty fish in our regular mealtimes.
Berries help with mental function.
These sweet, tangy, succulent fruits are not only known for their taste, but also their ability to boost brain function. There is strong scientific evidence that various fruits in this group such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are known to have high levels of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are responsible for removing free radicals in the body, especially the brain. Free radicals may negatively impact the brain as they cause neuron damage. Regular consumption of various berries was proven to reduce brain inflammation caused by these free radicals. The Paleo diet allows people to eat various kinds of berries freely–making the diet a strong contender for those who seek to improve their mental function.
Avocado is an anti-stressor.
Another versatile Paleo fruit that helps in mental wellness is the avocado. Avocados are known for their rich, creamy taste, which can be served either as a part of a savoury meal (avocado salad or guacamole), or as a sweet treat. Now, avocados are not only known to have healthy fats, but they contain B-vitamins and folate which naturally lowers your stress levels. Stress levels often trigger problems such as anxiety or depressive disorders, or even addictions. Many top rated addiction treatment centers have incorporated these findings and recommend the Paleo diet for fitting clients.
If you’re suffering from anxiety problems, it is best to incorporate B-vitamin and folate-rich Paleo foods such as avocado. Have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you’ll see how it can quickly turn into one of your go-to fruits.
Leafy greens help avoid depression.
According to recent antidepressant food rankings, leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense options in the list. Leafy greens also contain folate which help normalize serotonin levels in the brain.
When a person is depressed, serotonin levels often fluctuate irregularly from high to low. These are often seen in people who have major depressive disorders or bipolar disorders. The frequent consumption of folate helps in regulating the brain’s serotonin, making it possible to have stabilized moods.
In a Paleo diet, leafy greens serve as one of the major food groups. Watercress, spinach, arugula, and swiss chard are all great options to help avoid depression. It is recommended that people under the Paleo diet consume at least 3-4 servings of leafy greens in a day.
Asparagus can help in brain development.
The Paleo diet recommends consumption of non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, brocoli and cauliflower. Most notable of them all for brain development is asparagus, which contains vitamin K, folate, and a special amino acid called asparagine.
Asparagine is responsible for healthy brain development, as it helps in the transfer of glucose in the brain. The brain also utilizes glucose to function and create neural connections. People who have degenerative disorders often have difficulties maintaining or creating new neural connections. This may also be applicable for people recovering from brain problems due to drug or alcohol addictions. Eating nutrient-dense vegetables such as asparagus within a Paleo diet can help re-optimize the brain.
Eggs help avoid psychological disorders.
Aside from lean meat, fish, and seafood, the Paleo diet also allows consumption of eggs. In a recent study, it was discovered that choline, a substance found in eggs are known to prevent psychological disorders such as schizophrenia. Often, a woman who is malnourished during pregnancy has a high risk of having a child who has schizophrenic tendencies.
Eating eggs, especially the yolk, contain choline and other nutrients that are helpful for brain development. When these nutrients are supplied adequately, it avoids cerebral inhibition. Cerebral inhibition is the brain’s ability to filter out unwanted stimuli and to focus on those which matter. When cerebral inhibition is dysfunctional, it leads to psychosis, schizophrenia and other related mental health disorders.
Paleo diet for mental health? Definitely!
These food sources are great examples of how a Paleo diet can improve your mental health. Whether you are looking to lose weight, boost your energy, or break free from the chains of mental health issues – a Paleo diet is a good addition towards a healthy lifestyle.