Eat your way to wellbeing
Last week I was delighted to have the opportunity to be part of Work Avenue’s (@theworkavenue) “Wellbeing @ work” event. I was asked to talk about how nutrition can contribute to mental wellbeing. I was delighted to do this as I strongly believe that “a healthy body is a healthy mind” and that you can therefore influence your mental wellbeing through diet. I may have believed it but had not before researched the subject for myself. Well, now I had to and have found that my “belief” is beginning to be borne out. Links between diet and mental wellbeing are less established than with physical health but there are clear associations emerging.
Energy levels and associated blood sugar levels affect mood. “sugar highs” followed by energy crashes are just as damaging to our mental wellbeing as to physical health. Eating starchy carbs and vegetables provide slow release of sugar to the blood.
Gut health (inflammation). There is growing evidence that an inflamed gut can affect mood. Stress certainly affects the health of our gut bacteria but conversely a healthy gut helps fight stress. Some studies are now showing good gut bacteria may improve resilience and reduce anxiety. Fermented foods, yogurts and kefir provide a range of gut loving bacteria.
Mood chemicals or neurotransmitters which transmit feelings to the brain are strongly associated with what we eat. Serotonin is associated with wellbeing, calmness and feelings of happiness and Dopamine with motivation and focus. The proteins we eat: eggs, tofu and soya products particularly, are broken down into the amino acids which the body uses to produce the neurotransmitters and getting your “5 a day” of Fruit and veg will provide the right environment.
Other nutrients are associated with physical health are also being linked with mental wellbeing e.g.
Iron found in red meat and dark vegetables is essential for energy,
Omega fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts and seeds are anti-inflammatory and have been shown to have positive affects on the symptoms of depression.
Eat a balanced diet to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind.