Nutrition & Mental Health
A healthy diet will have a positive impact on our physical wellbeing. However, it’s really important to remember that proper nutrition significantly affects our mental health, too.
Eating right helps us to feel good and provides the energy we need to meet the demands of the day. Aside from the positive psychological impact, a well-balanced diet allows us to think clearly, concentrate better and be more alert. It can also lengthen our attention spans.
On the other hand, a poor diet may slow our reactions, make us sluggish and tired, and impair decision making. In fact, it will often worsen and induce stress and depression.
If we’re more mindful of how and what we eat, every aspect of our health can improve. Good mental health flows from good nutrition. We can all take a better approach to eating well: the dos and the don’ts.
Water is key to the human body functioning properly and, therefore, nothing is more vital than staying hydrated. Drinking sufficient fluids – 6-8 glasses of water per day – keeps you sharp. Tea and coffee can help but water is the best, and cheapest, option. Proper hydration means better concentration and clearer thinking.
Get your 5 a day
We can maintain a balance of good physical and mental health by eating a variety of fruit and vegetables. The World Health Organisation recommends that we eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day. These are the source of the nutrients our bodies need: minerals, vitamins and fibre. The healthier we feel, the better life will seem.
Care for your gut
It’s not unusual for your stomach to reflect your psychological state. Stress and anxiety are damaging to your gut health. To look after yourself and promote good digestion, stock up on fluids and eat fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.
Track your food, track your mood
Record what you eat and measure this against your mood. You will quickly recognise the link between particular foods and particular emotions. Some will make you feel better or more relaxed, others worse and more agitated. It’s reassuring, and rewarding, to be in control of, and understand, improvements in your wellbeing.
Count your calories
Tracking your food is not the same as watching every calorie. One can help you monitor your mental wellbeing, the other can lead to you becoming anxious and paranoid about what you eat. Just counting calories is unlikely to make you happy. You will end up learning the wrong lessons about nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
Be bad to yourself
This is crucial. It’s easy to put lots of pressure on yourself to eat well but never forget to enjoy your food. There’s nothing wrong with eating something nice and sweet from time to time. And don’t feel guilty about doing that.
Fixate on diets
Diets rarely have long-lasting positive effects and they’re not really suitable for sustainable lifestyle changes. Whether it’s the latest fad or another quick fix, nothing beats change that’s both comfortable and achievable for you.
Use food as a crutch
Anyone can fall into this trap. When we’re down, or under pressure, we often reach for fast or processed foods to give ourselves a quick lift. These are high in calories, salt, fat and added sugars, which may contribute to things like anxiety and low mood. Don’t eat unless you’re hungry and if you find yourself emotionally drawn to food, try to do something more productive.
You can call our Advocacy for All team, which is ready to connect you with the right support. Get in touch today.
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