Plant-Based Diet and Mental Health

By May 6, 2024May 15th, 2024Plant-Based Diet and Mental Health
woman holding a bowl of salad

What is the connection between plant-based diet and mental health?

Is there a link between eating your vegetables and having a resilient, healthy, happy mind? We think so! Here at Villa Kali Ma, we’ve been championing a plant-based diet since our founding days.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet means eating only plants and foods made from plants. This includes eating fresh leaves, stems, and roots of plants – vegetables like carrots, lettuce, and broccoli, raw and cooked. It also means eating fruits and berries, as well as starches and proteins in the form of whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Some foods made by fermenting plants, like tempeh, miso, and tofu, which are made from soy, are frequently included in a plant-based diet, as well as oat or nut milk, yogurts, and faux cheeses.

Specifically, in the plant-based diet, we refrain from all meat and dairy – red meat, poultry, fish, and milk-derived products are replaced with alternatives.

Ideally, plant-based diets are composed mostly of fresh, organic, whole foods. Where organic isn’t a possibility, we look for simple food that is as fresh, unprocessed, and natural as possible.

In this context, natural means “as close to the original form as possible”. The more processed a food item is the more degraded its nutritional profile. That said, naturally-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles are recommended on a plant-based diet because they help maintain gut health and bring much good (such as B vitamins and other needed nutrients) into your body.

It’s important to note that with the rise of many plant-based products on the market, GMO foods and plants farmed using chemical pesticides (these often go together) have many toxic impacts and should be avoided where possible. If a product is not explicitly labeled organic and/or non-GMO, the chances are high that although it is plant-based, it may be made from genetically modified soy, corn, or wheat (for example). Make your own decisions, of course, just a heads up that not all that’s technically plant-based is healthy for humans or good for the environment.

Chemical additives, preservatives, long ingredient lists, ingredients you’ve never heard of, and highly processed and refined sugars, gums, and other common ingredients that add flavor or help a plant-based product mimic meat or dairy should be considered with caution. Of course, it’s ok to have treats in moderation and to enjoy your food, but it’s wise to be aware of the presence of imposter health foods on the market.

Plant-based diets are meant to be paired with a healthy lifestyle, including good enough exercise and sleep. In general, we always recommend tuning in with your body resonance and highest wisdom before putting anything in your system!

What is the difference between vegan and plant-based?

woman on a plant based dietStrictly speaking, vegan means that not only your diet but also all other products in your life (cosmetics, clothes, etc) are free of animal ingredients. Following a plant-based diet focuses just on what you put in your body in terms of food and drink.

How does eating a plant-based diet affect your mental health?

We at Villa Kali Ma favor a plant-based diet for recovering a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

We have found the plant-based diet to be the most supportive path for restoring natural functioning internally. A conscious, thoughtful diet focused mostly on eating as closely to nature as we can (in practical terms, that means as organic and unprocessed as possible), is highly supportive of a life of self-awareness, self-care, and intention.

Eating plants has many nutritional benefits that are known to support optimal mental health too. Fresh, minimally processed plants and whole foods replenish us with the right balance of minerals, vitamins, probiotics and prebiotics, fats, and proteins that are right for a higher-vibrational version of human life.

Here at Villa Kali Ma, we also feel that eating foods with the lightest impact on the environment, and the greatest regard for animals, fits with our ethics and intentions to live in harmony.

What are the benefits of taking care of your gut?

Perhaps the most important connection between mental health and the plant-based diet has to do with healing your microbiome, which is found in your gut.

The gut is called “the second brain”, and it is an important part of mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual health.

A growing minority within the field of medicine holds that most mental health imbalances, such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and low moods, stem from troubles in the microbiome (gut). The gut and the brain are closely connected and maintain constant two-way communication, by way of hormones, neurotransmitters, and nerves.

By helping the gut to get what it needs, nutrients-wise, and cutting out those substances that erode the gut’s strength and ability to protect itself from harm, we have a better shot at restoring the natural relationship between “gut feeling” and a clean mind. A healthy gut will signal to the brain that all is well, and promote positive, healthy feelings and thoughts.

A healthy microbiome corresponds to healthier thoughts and emotions, as well as a well-feeling body. When the gut is supported to do its job, then our brains and nervous system can do their jobs better, too.

How to make the most out of your plant-based diet?

While in treatment at Villa Kali Ma, we will show you how to prepare plant-based foods that are delicious and share guidance on how you might like to integrate plant-based, conscious eating into your life.

Please know that whatever your path and choice is, we respect and understand that every woman, and everybody, is different. Each person is encouraged to follow their own highest wisdom and to pay attention by tuning in to the truth-frequencies of their own body as best as they can.

Our general attitude is to eat as close to nature as possible. That means, eating plants soon after harvest, and eating plants that are organically grown and locally sourced, whenever and wherever this is possible.

Shoot to shift the bulk of your diet to be composed of fresh vegetables and fruits that haven’t been preserved or processed (the exception being living-culture, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, which provide many vitamins and probiotics). Support this diet with whole grains (unrefined wherever possible), seeds, nuts, and legumes. If you care to, include some organic tofu, tempeh, and nut milk.

Remember that food issues can be emotionally triggering, and don’t make it a moral thing, or about being a worthy person or not. And don’t be too black or white about it. A perfect diet is not a thing; “perfect” can be the enemy of the good. A better diet will go a long way!

What are the benefits of a plant-based diet?

plant based diet benefits

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are believed to be:

Lowered risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, potentially contributing to a longer life span

Supports optimal weight for your body type and body mass index

Happier mental-emotional states through hormone harmonization, regulation of serotonin and other neurotransmitter functioning

More fiber and nutrient-dense foods

Better gut health and immunity

More energy

What is Villa Kali Ma’s principle behind a plant-based diet?

The field of nutrition, which we at Villa Kali Ma support wholeheartedly as one of our many multimodal approaches to supporting women, explores the ways that mental illness may be connected to a lack of certain nutrients, or an impaired ability to process our food the way we need to.

The idea that we can support our souls to heal in part through diet is wonderful because what we put in our mouths is something that we have some measure of control over.

Even if we can’t change what happened in the past, we can change how we think and feel in the moment, in part through eating more holistically.

Villa Kali Ma supports a plant-based diet benefiting mental health

Many aspects of contemporary life are believed to negatively impact mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Consumption of synthetic chemicals in our food and drinks (dyes, preservatives, and so on), too many pharmaceuticals, drugs, and alcohol, toxic exposure from manufacturing and agriculture, inundation by artificial light and sound, infrequent contact with soil and living flora, and many other factors are probably making it hard for your beautiful, miraculous physical body to function as nature designed it to. And how can your spirit, here to have its experiences in form, do what it’s here to do, with all these burdens pressing down on it?

Spend some time with us, in any of our programs. We’ll include guidance for how conscious eating, nutrition, plant medicine, and gut healing can be a beautiful, freeing part of your recovery story!

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