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Don’t Eat Meat? Here’s What You Need to Know about Nutrition and Mental Health

Vegan Diets and Mental Health, Exploring the Link Between Vegan Diets and Mental Health

Don’t Eat Meat? Here’s What You Need to Know about Nutrition and Mental Health

Data shows that for quite some time now, more and more Americans have been changing their diets to reduce the amount of meat they eat. For some, that might mean participating in “Meatless Mondays.” For others, it may mean eating no meat at all. And for still others, it means avoiding any and all foods that originate from animals.

Why are people eating less meat? There are a range of factors involved. Many folks are increasingly concerned about the environmental effects of a meat-based diet. Others are taking an ethical position that it is cruel to keep and kill animals for food. Still others are pursuing the health benefits that may be associated with a diet that is primarily plant-based. In many cases, no doubt, those who choose not to eat meat (or to eat less of it) are doing so for a combination of those reasons (and perhaps others).

Reducing or eliminating meat from your diet has, of course, an impact on the nutritional content of what you eat. And that can affect your mental health. We’ll consider the ramifications of three different levels of commitment to a plant-based diet.

Pescatarians Might Get Enough Omega-3s; Others Need to Cast a Wider Net

Some folks who eat mostly plants make an exception for seafood and are known as pescatarians. This can be a healthy approach because seafood provides the fatty acid known as omega-3s. People who do not consume enough omega-3s can experience difficulties related to learning and memory. Those problems can, in turn, lead to or worsen a mental health disorder.

So what do you do if you don’t want to put fish in your dish? Fortunately, fatty acids can be found in walnuts, tofu, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp drinks, and soy oil. You just have to be intentional about adding these foods to your overall diet. You could also consider taking supplements (though vegans will want to be careful about this, as some supplements contain animal products), but as a rule, it is better to get your nutrients from food sources.

B-12 or Not B-12? That is the Question for Vegans

A deficiency of vitamin B-12 has been linked to depression, so it is important to make sure it is part of your diet. That is a challenge for vegans, but B-12 is only found naturally in dairy products, eggs, and meat. How can a vegan get the B-12 they need? There are a few options.

Some plant-based foods have been supplemented with vitamin B-12. Multivitamins and supplements are also an option. In some cases, a doctor may be concerned about a person’s levels of the vitamin and so will give them a shot to boost their B-12.

Without Meat You Will Need to Meet Your Amino Acids Elsewhere

Amino acids are found in protein—and most of the protein in the average diet comes from meat. These amino acids are an important component of the brain chemicals that buoy a person’s mood. Those who are content to be part-time vegetarians may get what they need from the occasional meal with meat, but it is still a good idea (and an essential idea if one eats no meat at all) to add some plant-based sources of protein to your diet. Those sources include whole grains, seeds, peas, nuts, lentils, and beans.

No Matter What You Eat, Make Up Your Mind to Support Your Mental Well-being

Good nutrition (like exercise or good sleep habits) is a key driver of good physical and mental health. So whether you eat meat regularly, sometimes, or not at all, it is important to pay attention to what you are using to fuel your body and brain. Consistently making good (and tasty!) choices can lead to a range of benefits.

Chew On This: We Can Help You Improve Your Mental Health

If a mental health disorder has been eating at you, we can help.

At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we offer personalized treatment for mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, and disorders stemming from traumatic experiences. We know no two individuals have identical stories or needs, so we listen intently and work with you to find the best approaches to help you make and maintain improvements in your mental health.

Mental health disorders can make you feel as though you are all alone. But that isn’t true. When you are ready to reclaim your life from the difficulties caused by a mental health disorder, we are ready to get to work.

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