The Improve-Your-Mental-Health Diet

Claudia Sindoni Bonilla, Staff Writer

After sitting through a two-hour lecture on diet and cerebral health, I must admit that maybe there is something to having fewer Girl Scout Cookies and milkshakes throughout the week. Not just because I’d like to lose the pounds I’ve packed on since quarantine has begun, but because, according to the three decade-long Harvard study the lecture I sat for referenced, what we choose to eat directly determines much of our brain’s physical health and, correspondingly, our own mental health.

But must that really translate to giving up the sleeves of coconut-caramel-chocolate cookies? Will it really prevent further mutation into a more irritable, unfocused version of myself? And must I really reject the daily vanilla milkshake for the purpose of achieving a more energized me? 

The short answer is “kind of.” 

It’s definitely not recommended that you burn all ten bags of chips that have been stuffed into your pantry. In fact, studies have shown that immediately removing all comfort foods could actually result in worse unpleasantries than had you stuck with them. 

Instead, it’s recommended that you use the “hidden veggie” approach. Meaning, in lieu of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, try out squash mac n cheese. According to the lecturer, it is small changes like this that will disrupt less of our day-to-day life and “diet-normalities” and make the bigger difference in the end.

Additionally, once you’ve mastered the art of the “hidden veggie,” he recommends supplementing your diet with a little mindfulness. If you find that you could use a little more fiber, for example, look for an opportunity to have a smoothie or salad during your day (it’s not suggested that you use probiotics, however, as research has proven that the majority of bacteria strains used in probiotic supplements can actually cause constipation) and if you don’t feel hungry around breakfast time, reach for the green juice instead of the pancakes, hash, eggs, and sausage.  

In sum, what it takes to improve your mental health from a dietary perspective is simply becoming more conscientious of what it is that you’re putting into your body. There’s no need to leave quarantine a new-found raw vegan, but maybe just a little more mindful.