Mental health is so important but did you know that the food you eat can have are strong impact on how you feel and relate to the world? Recently The Backstage Centre caught up with SoundBite Catering Manager, Graeme Collie, to find out how what you eat can help support your mental health.
“Healthy food is so powerful. A well-rounded diet can have a powerful, positive effect on your cognition, mood, memory, and behaviour. Everything you put on the end of your fork matters and when you eat to improve your health, you should improve the quality of your life.
The food we eat impact neurotransmitter levels of serotonin and dopamine, which play a big role in how we feel and perceive the world. Serotonin, for instance is responsible for mood, sleep regulation, and appetite control and when levels of this neurotransmitter drop, the results can be mood disorders, anxiety, and negativity. The may be why we crave carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, and chocolate, all of which raise serotonin levels temporarily. Alternatively complex carbs such as apples and sweet potatoes, work the same magic but don’t set you up for more cravings. Likewise, dopamine helps to increase focus and motivation and eating small amounts of protein throughout the day can boost dopamine levels.
It’s critical to make sure that the food you eat is loaded with nutrients that your body is able to properly digest and absorb.”
Graeme has listed his seven top tips to help
- Eat high-quality calories as the quality of your food affects how your brain and body work, therefore try to eat high-quality food, and be careful with calories. Impulsivity is associated with unhealthy weight gain which has been shown to be bad for the brain so try and only eat high quality-calories. One cinnamon roll contains 700+ calories while a 400- calorie salad made of spinach, salmon, blueberries, apples, walnuts, and red bell peppers will help to increase your energy levels. Also, it’s not as simple as calories in, calories out as some calories adversely affect your hormones, taste buds, and your health. Eating sugar and processed food, even in small amounts, leads to craving more food and feeling less energetic. You can eat more if you eat healthy, high-quality food that gives you energy and turns on the hormones that affect metabolism.
- Drink plenty of water. Your brain is 80 percent water. Anything that dehydrates it, such as too much caffeine or alcohol, impairs your cognition and judgment. Drink plenty of water every day.
- Eat high-quality, lean protein. It is important to start each day with a protein to boost your focus and concentration. Protein helps to balance your blood sugar, increases focus, and gives your brain the necessary building blocks for brain health. Think of it as medicine, and take it in small doses. Great sources of protein include wild fish, skinless turkey or chicken, beans, raw nuts, and vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Protein powders can also be a good source, but read the labels as some companies put sugar and other unhealthful ingredients in their powders.
- Eat carbohydrates that do no spike your blood sugar and are high in fibre, such as those found in vegetables and fruits, like blueberries and apples. Carbohydrates are not the enemy; they are essential to your health. Bad carbohydrates – ones that have been stripped of nutritional value, such as sugar and simple carbs – are the problem.
- Eat plenty of fibre, experts recommend eating 25 to 35 grams of fibre a day but studies suggest that most people fall short of that. Boost your fibre by eating lots of vegetables and a little fruit.
- Focus on healthy fats. Good fats are essential to your health. Essential fatty acids are called ‘essential’ for a reason. The solid weight of your brain is 60 percent fat (after all the water is removed). You want to eliminate bad fats from your meals – trans fats, fried fats, and fat from cheaply raised, industrially farmed animals that are fed corn and soy. Fats found in pizza, ice cream and cheeseburgers disrupt the hormones that send signals to the brain to tell you if you’re full so you don’t stop.
- Eat foods that reflect the colours of the rainbow, such as blueberries, pomegranates, yellow squash, and red bell peppers. They boost antioxidant levels in your body and help keep your brain young.
Thanks for your top tips Graeme!
Photography from the UAL BA(Hons) Photography at University Centre South Essex. All images are subject to copyright.