The phrase “you are what you eat” rings true today more than ever before. In a world where nutritional levels are growing unhealthier each year, paying attention to our diets is more important than ever.
According to experts, not only is a good nutritional dietcrucial for our physical health, experts warn that it is also essential for our mental health and overall wellbeing. This link has been reinforced by recent evidence, which showed that a number of mental health conditions could be influenced by diet.
Below are three ways that diet affects health and wellbeing:
What you eat directly affects your mental health. The same blood that fills your heart fills your brain and without proper nutrients it won’t function as well as it should.
A healthy diet reduces the risk of mental degenerative illness that affects memory and learning such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It also fights against depression and schizophrenia. Leading mental health charity Mind reinforces the importance of diet. According to the charity, there is a significant relationship between food and your mental wellbeing.
A study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine looked at food intake of adolescents aged 13-15. They found those who ate refined foods, sugary foods and red meats had a higher percentage of depression, aggression and behavioural problems than those eating a fresh fruit and leafy green diet.
What you eat determines how well your body can undertake tasks of strength, endurance and co-ordination.Without essential vitamins and minerals the body’s cells can’t perform their basic functions, the metabolism slows and health dramatically decreases.
A diet high in fats leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses that could be avoided by following a good diet. Eating well can make the difference between a comfortable, happy life or one that’s spent dealing with health complications.
Those who eat a poor diet are more likely to be overweight and suffer low self esteem. It can also mean they’re less likely to participant in new activities and social events. Self esteem gives people the confidence to live life and make friendships. Without it people become withdrawn and isolated.
Poor diets can often consist of sugar spikes and crashes which make people tired and irritable – not someone others want to be around. Slow release healthy foods like bananas keep the blood sugar and mood stable.
How To Improve Your Health Through Diet
The biggest enemies in the modern diet are fat, sugar and salt. Whilst it is acceptable to include a small percentage of these in your diet, we ingest far too much. Healthy eating means ingesting enough vitamins and minerals from every food group for your body to function correctly.
Graphic from: euroClinix UK
Along with healthy eating, experts also stress the importance of exercise in conjunction with a healthy and balanced diet, to help improve and maintain your mental, physical and social health.
Below are some tips to improve your health and wellbeing:
Learn to read food labels. Salt (sometimes labelled sodium) levels are displayed but in reality what does mean? The recommended adult intake of salt is no more than 6 grams per day so if a processed meal contains high levels then its best to avoid it. You should also learn how much activity it takes to burn off calories. For example a Starbucks coffee can contain upwards of 400 calories which takes more the two hours of walking to burn off.
Learn to cook
Processed meals used to be called convenience meals, and that’s how they should be viewed -an occasional meal when there’s no time to cook from fresh. It’s simpler than ever to learn cookery skills. The internet has everything needed. There are even apps to guide you.
Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet
Whilst food high in fat, sugar and salt taste good, they are not what we are supposed to eat. We can all benefit from more vegetables and fruit. Eat at least five a day as a minimum.
Most people would benefit from cutting out some red meat in favour of vegetarian versions or oily fish. Pulses, nuts, grains and beans are often overlooked but are important sources of protein, oils and carbohydrates. A variety of fruit and vegetables in place of cakes, crisps, pastries, red meat and white bread is a great place to start.
Cut down alcohol
Itâ€™s essential for good health to cut down if you over indulge. The UK ‘low risk’ levels are no more than 14 units a week, which equates to six large glasses of wine. Not only is alcohol full of nutritionally useless calories in the long term it can cause liver disease and cancer.
Without sufficient sleep we are more likely to snack on high-energy foods containing sugar to perk us up. Lack of sleep suppresses the hormone leptin our ‘feeling full’ hormone and stimulates the hormone gherlin, the one that stimulates appetite.
Eating well brings health improvements to every aspect of your life. Filling a car with the wrong type of fuel causes it to falter and eventually breakdown. The same happens to your body. Fuel up well with a healthy diet and reap the three health benefits.