fresh healthy foods

Food for thought

Anita Jaensch 07 July 2020

What we eat can play a significant role in how we feel – not just physically, but also mentally.

There’s a reason they call it ‘comfort food’ – who hasn’t reached for the bikkie tin when they’re feeling a little down or stressed?

But while it might make you feel better in the short term, what we choose to eat has a direct influence on our mood and quality of life.

“People who suffer from mental health conditions sometimes change their diet, which can lead to them maybe not consuming the most appropriate foods for their body and their health,” says Fuel Your Life Director of Dietetics Peta Cullis. “If you are looking to optimise and improve your mental health, you might want to take a step back and think about what you are and aren’t eating to influence that.”

Eating well can give you more energy, improve your concentration and help you sleep, which in turn can improve your mental health. So what should you eat to keep your mind and body healthy?

Peta says a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, some lean red meat and fish will not only keep you physically healthy, it may also help to lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“Omega 3 fatty acids also have a very positive effect on cognition, particularly ageing and brain function, as well as mitigating and improving feelings of low mood,” she says. “Fish, nuts, seeds and whole grains are proven to improve wellbeing as well.”

And she says foods that are high in sugar or contain artificial colours and other additives may also have a negative effect, as can alcohol.

Six quick tips for improving your diet

Making small changes can be easier than changing your eating habits all at once!

  1. Swap less healthy snacks for nuts, fruit and seedy crackers, substitute barley or quinoa for white rice and change your white wrap to a seedy, grainy wholemeal slice of bread.
  2. Eat less meat, and more fish or legumes. You can add a tin of chickpeas or four bean mix to salads or soups or put tuna in sandwiches or on crackers for a filling brain boost.
  3. Eat more vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables. And try to eat them raw rather than cooked.
  4. Try a new wholegrain once a month. It can take time to incorporate these in different ways but wholegrains are extremely beneficial for gut-mental health. Try quinoa, barley and freekeh in soups, salads or risottos.
  5. Don’t ditch the dairy – it can definitely help with sleep and gut health.
  6. Drink more water and less wine – if you are reaching for something to drink, have a glass of water first. If you are in the habit of having a nightly glass of wine, beer or spirits, challenge yourself to go one night without and see how you feel the next day.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Some changes will be easy to make and others will be harder. But if you are persistent, it will eventually be as easy as 1-2-3.

If you would like further information, contact Fuel Your Life.

  • Health & wellbeing