Updated: Nov 16, 2021
A plethora of diet advice is being spewed at us every day. This makes it confusing to know what to eat, when to eat, and even how to eat. In addition to our daily stressors, this information-overwhelm doesn't exactly help us make better food choices. In turn, we continue to indulge in behaviors that don’t serve both our physical and mental health.
Our eating habits greatly affect how we feel. And evidence* has proven that our nutrition and mental health goes hand-in-hand. Fortunately, good dietary habits shouldn’t be complicated or stressful. Instead of hopping on another diet trend, simply start with these five simple eating principles to keep you sane and healthy:
1) Maintain a regular* eating schedule
Eating regularly is the foundation of a good diet. This means eating around 3 to 5 times a day, which comes down to every 3 to 5 hours. Without a consistent eating schedule, our blood sugar rises and falls in extremes. As a result, we feel tired, irritable, depressed, and more likely to binge eat on junk food. Therefore, try eating portioned, regular meals to keep our mood and energy levels calm and steady.
2) Get your five a day
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Researchers* have gathered compelling evidence that those who eat more of these natural foods are generally happier than those who eat fewer or none. This is because these wholefoods contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to enhance our physical health, which includes our brains!
3) Take care of your gut
Our gut is lined with a hundred million nerve cells that guide our emotions. This is because 90-95 percent* of our mood stabilizing hormone, serotonin, is produced in our gastrointestinal tract. When the balance between the good and bad gut bacteria is disrupted, we become prone to both physical and mental complications. Hence, take care of your gut by getting sufficient fibre, fluid, sleep and exercise. Incorporating wholefoods, live yogurt and probiotics help increase the good bacteria in your gut too.
4) Get enough protein
Proper functioning of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin regulate our thoughts and feelings. And amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are essential to the production of neurotransmitters. High-protein foods also help us avoid processed foods that can worsen* anxiety and depression. By increasing our protein intake through lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese and legumes, we also improve our energy levels and strength. All of which helps us feel better overall.
5) Consume healthy fats
Healthy sources of fat* such as those in fish and nuts are super important building blocks for the brain. Our brain is made of 60% fat. Hence, fatty acids like omega-3 and -6 help keep the cell membranes of our brains healthy. Furthermore, omega-3 deficiency* is strongly associated with depression. And because our brain doesn’t make our own omega-3s, it’s important to consume foods with this micronutrient.
Our brain works a 24/7 shift. It takes care of our thoughts, emotions, movement, breathing among many other things. Even when we sleep, our brain needs a good supply of quality fuel. This is why the foods we eat have such a big impact on our cognitive function, emotional regulation, and our overall mental health. So, if you’re feeling like you haven’t been taking care of your nutrition, start with these small changes today.
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