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How Can Diet Affect Your Mental Health and Wellbeing?

A widely accepted fact is that eating well is good for our bodies, and in turn, our physical wellbeing. But did you know that what we eat can have a dramatic effect on our mental wellbeing too? According to Mind.org.uk having a good diet can:

  • Improve your mood
  • Give you more mental energy
  • Help you think more clearly

They suggest the following basic steps…

Eating regularly

Have you ever heard of the term “hangry”? It’s an invented word for people who’s mood changes negatively when they get hungry and their blood sugar drops. Not eating enough can have a big impact on those who are already susceptible to feeling tired, irritable and depressed.

The recommendation is to eat regularly and when you do so, don’t snack on quick, sugary treats – instead find things that release energy slowly, keeping your (healthy) sugar levels high. These types of food are: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread, cereals, nuts and seeds.

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Stay hydrated

Our body is made up of about 60% water and so it is absolutely crucial to keep it topped up and hydrated. Wherever possible we should try to do this through drinking plenty of water, but most liquids (other than alcohol) will also help.

When we are dehydrated, our body doesn’t function quite as it should – meaning it could be difficult to concentrate or think clearly. Wherever possible, try to drink between 6-8 glasses of fluid each day.

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Getting your 5-a-day

I don’t think anyone in the UK will have been able to miss this advice in recent years, but there’s a reason it’s repeated over and over – vegetables and fruit contain so many of the  vitamins,  minerals and fibre we need in order to keep our minds and bodies healthy.

A good way to be sure you’re getting a mixture is to look at the colour of each one – try to pick 5 different colours wherever possible. For example: eating a red apple, green broccoli, orange butternut squash, yellow banana and purple cabbage that day will ensure you’re getting a good range of nutrients.

If you usually find eating fruit and veg difficult, turn it into a game – give yourself a tick chart of colours and see how many you can mark off each day!

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Getting enough protein

Protein contains amino acids – these are crucial for looking after our mental wellbeing because they make up some of the chemicals in our brains that regulate our thoughts and feelings. Another benefit of protein is that they tend to be in foods that keep us fuller for longer – meaning we shouldn’t have as many “hangry” moments!

Most of us know that protein can be found in meats, but you can also enjoy it in fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.

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Managing caffeine

If you’re having a rough day, you might reach for a coffee to give you that extra boost of energy. Whilst a little here and there won’t do you too much harm, becoming reliant on it can. It also only gives you a short burst of energy, so can quickly leave you feeling anxious and depressed.

If you have caffeine before bed, it will almost certainly disturb your sleep, for more information about how important sleep is, read our article “Your Sleep Matters”. Caffeine can also lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly.

Caffeine can be found in: energy drinks/cola, tea, coffee and chocolate. If you are used to having a lot of these, try weaning yourself off by switching to decaf occasionally.

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What we put into our stomachs has an undeniable connection with how able we feel to tackle the challenges life throws at us – so look after yourself; your body and mind will thank you.

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