Now before we all burst into song and dance, like the famous Michael Jackson. It’s time to talk about the link between what we eat and the effects on physical and mental wellbeing.
Whilst the effects of diet on physical health aren’t a new concept, the effects of diet on mental health are. With research into this area still in the early stages, what’s not clear is whether your diet affects your mental health or if it’s your mental health that affects your food choices.
It’s also possible that there are other contributing factors, such as exercise and lifestyle choices that may impact on your mental health, and potentially a combination of all of these contributors. What’s evident is that people who eat an overall healthy diet get the most ‘bang for their buck’ and tend to have better mental health.
In particular, the research suggests that depression and dementia are effected by diet quality. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates and fish (Omega 3’s) is related to a reduction of health risks, for example depression and poor memory function.
There are many risk factors that cause mental illness, including many we have no control over such as genetics, childhood trauma and socioeconomic status.
Whilst there’s no specific single nutrient to be focusing on, a diet high in variety will tick these boxes and ensure your doing all you can to maximise physical and mental wellbeing. So, next time you hear the saying we are what we eat, take a second to reflect on your present intake, because wouldn’t we all like enough energy to knock us off of our feet.
Emily's nutrition and mental health tips
AIM FOR COLOUR: The more colour on our plate the higher the antioxidant content. Antioxidants maintain the health of our bodies numerous cells. Studies have shown countries with the longest lifespan and the lowest prevalence of disease are known to consume 7-10 serves of antioxidant rich fresh fruit and vegetables every day.
OMEGA 3’S: Known as healthy fats, Omega 3’s can be found in all the oily fishes such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, which play a central role in healthy brain function. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chai seeds, avocado and olive oil are also key fats involved in keep our body’s engine or heart pumping strong.
COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES: Also referred to as Low GI, high fibre sources are foods that are digested at a slow rate. This results in a more sustainable method of fuelling the body with energy. When we eat carbohydrate rich foods such as wholegrains – bread, legumes, fruit and vegetables they are broken down into glucose, which is released into the bloodstream for energy purposes. The brain relies on glucose to function. So, it comes as no surprise that by eating regularly energy levels will be maintained. Low energy levels that people may feel throughout the day could be due to poor meal timing. Skipping meals may contribute to mood swings, lethargy, poor concentration, increased stress and an overall sense of flatness by fluctuations in blood glucose levels. So, the next time 3pm hits at work, before the inner bear comes out and shocks all your colleagues, make sure you have had lunch or grab a piece of fruit to pump up the jam.
VITAMIN D: Our English counterparts have proven that (seasonal affective disorder) lack of sunlight exposure not only can leave us Vitamin D deficient but feeling blue. So, why not tick both boxes by incorporating outdoor exercise.
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