What is Good Nutrition for Mental Health? – Blog by Nutritionist Evelyn Vo
Eating healthily isn’t just about maintaining a healthy weight or building lean body mass. Recent studies reported that good nutrition is also essential for our mental health. In this post I will provide my top 5 tips on using nutrition to benefit your mental health.
1. Eat Regularly
Stick to 3 main meals and one or two snacks a day or 5 small meals. Why? Because our brains need a consistent and steady flow of fuel to function efficiently. Eating irregularly may lead to poor concentration, irritability and moodiness. This kind of eating pattern can also lead to undereating or overeating.
2. Eat Intuitively
Although it may sound like choosing your meals using psychic powers, intuitive eating it actually eating like a normal human being. Intuitive eating doesn’t impose strict diet rules about what and when to eat, or what to avoid. It teaches you to develop a healthy attitude towards food and body image. This is done by teaching you to listen to your body cues so, in the end, you learn to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
3. Get active!
Exercising is beneficial to our mental health. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins. These endorphins create a positive feeling in the body by interacting with the receptors in our brains that reduce our perception of pain. It also encourages us to get out! This is the recommendation set by the Australian Government Department of Health for adults aged 18-64 years:
- Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or
- 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or
- An equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
4. Eat at a Rainbow
Fruit and vegetables are categorised into 5 different colours: red, purple/blue, orange, green and white/brown, each one carries its own unique disease fighting chemicals called phytochemicals, which occur naturally in plants. This is something that has been reiterated by many nutritional health professionals because it highlights the importance of providing our bodies with a variety of vitamins and minerals to function efficiently.
5. Drink Sufficient Amounts of Fluids
Water is a nutrient that is essential because it’s required in amounts that exceeds the body’s ability to produce it. It has been reported that chronic mild dehydration and poor fluid intake can lead to diminished physical and mental health performance. According to the Nutritional Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand he approximate adequate daily intake of fluids for men and women is 10 cups and 8 cups respectively. The adequate intakes includes all fluids, but it is preferable that the majority of the intake is from plain water.
There you have it, my 5 tips on good nutrition for mental health. My recommendation is to implement one change at a time. You want to aim for these changes to become habit, not a trend or phase. A great thing to try if you’re struggling to stick to changes is to create a goal for yourself. If you fail, try and try again! If you’re still struggling to maintain these changes, come see me at The Nutrition Space.
Blog post written by Evelyn Vo (Nutritionist)