Uncovering the truths about eating for a healthy headspace
We know it hasn’t been easy for staff within hospitality, Aged Care and Childcare industries lately. Did you know that the food we eat can have an impact our mood, thoughts and mental wellbeing? Over the recent years, there has been increasing research that shows a connection between nutrition and mental health. This means that our diet plays a role in the onset, severity and duration of mental health conditions. Many studies have shown that diets higher in processed foods are linked with increased depression and anxiety.
Foods to include for better mental health
Now that we know that improving our diet quality plays an important role in improving our mental health, let’s consider what foods to include in our day-to-day diet:
Food to include
Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This makes sure we are getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals every day and has been proven to positively impact mental health.
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and cod.
These foods are high in Omega 3, which has been linked to decreased rates of depression.
Foods high in fibre, such as wholegrains and cereals (oats, barley, wheat, rice), beans, seeds and a wide range of plant foods.
These foods feed the healthy bacteria in our gut, which can help to improve our mood.
Making sure you get enough water every day is not only important for good physical health! Studies have shown that dehydration is linked to increased rates of anxiety.
Eating our much-loved comfort foods releases a sense of pleasure in the body. This means that comfort foods can help make us feel more calm and reduce the feelings associated with stress.
Keeping it simple
On days when you’re feeling low or don’t have the motivation to prepare a nutritious meal, it can be trickier to ensure you are getting enough nourishment. Below are a number of simple suggestions to make nutrition a little easier.
Keeping nutrient dense snacks on hand. For example: Snack bars containing cereals, nuts, seeds and fruit, Cheese, ham and cracker snack packs, Trail mix, Canned tuna with crispbread and High protein yogurt cups
Nutritious drinks, either homemade or store bought. For example, smoothies, juices or milk drinks.
On days when you don’t feel like cooking, keeping store-bought frozen meals handy is a good option to ensure you continue to get enough nutrition. There are a wide range of convenient, healthy, frozen meals available in the supermarket.
On the days when you’re feeling up to it, cooking large quantities of meals and freezing these into individual portion sizes is another helpful way to ensure you always have some frozen meals on hand.
If grocery shopping is difficult for you, consider placing an online grocery order as an alternative. This may ease the anxiety of forgetting an item or taking your time when deciding what to purchase. Otherwise, consider doing your shopping during quieter times, such as early in the morning or later in the evening.
Strategies to reduce stress
It’s important to remember that mental health is complex and multifaceted. Below are a number of strategies you might like to try when you are feeling low:
Make sure you are drinking enough water. It is recommended to aim for approximately 2.1L/day for females and 2.6L/day for males.
Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep every night, as poor sleep has been found to worsen depression. However, it is important to note that sleep and mental health have a two-way relationship, as those with depression are also more likely to suffer from insomnia. It is recommended that you seek the guidance of a medical practitioner if this is a concern for you.
Aim to regularly participate in exercise that you enjoy. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that can boost our mood and concentration. It can also help increase our energy levels, release stress and improve sleep quality. Remember, any exercise is better than none!
Participate in activities that help make you feel calm and bring you joy. This varies from person to person, however may include reading, listening to music, starting a new hobby or watching your favourite TV show.
While these strategies may help, it is important to always seek the guidance of a medical professional if you are concerned about your mental health.
R U OK Day
This R U OK Day, check on your loved ones and ask, “Are you okay?”. If you, or someone you know, is struggling, please consider reaching out to your local mental health support organisation.
Beyond Blue at https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ OR call on 1300 22 4636
Lifeline at https://www.lifeline.org.au/ OR call on 13 11 14
Head to Health at https://www.headtohealth.gov.au/
Butterfly Foundation at https://butterfly.org.au/ OR call on 1800 33 4673
We all have different needs; therefore this resource is intended for use as a guide only. For further information about how nutrition can impact your mental health, an Accredited Practising Dietitian (like us!) will be able to provide you with personalised recommendations.
Please seek the support of an Dietitian if you, or someone you know, is struggling with their nutrition.
Remember, there is no health without mental health!
(World Health Organisation, 2018).
Claudia Perri, Accredited Practising Dietitian for OSCAR Care Group