Hello, this is Amy, one of your new Supermarket Registered Dietitians for Coborn’s! The summer has just flown by and its once again, back to our busy schedules this fall. Although our schedules may seem to be a little out of control, we need to keep our physical and mental health a top priority during these busy seasons.
Just as we need a well-balanced diet with exercise to have good physical health, a well-balanced diet is also the key to improve and maintain good mental health. In today’s world, we find ourselves extremely busy in our daily lives. Some of us may even be guilty to admit that we often skip meals or eat something extremely small in order to us to be able to meet our demanding schedules. Nutrition is the fuel our bodies use in order to stay energetic and strong throughout the day. Without the proper nutrition, we see a decline in both our physical and mental health.
Nutrition plays a key role in our mental health. Think about it- how do you feel after eating a healthy and simple lunch today vs how you feel after Thanksgiving dinner? Our bodies react differently to various foods that we eat and also the amount of food we consume at a snack or meal. It’s similar to the idea that “you are what you eat” because overtime our bodies are a reflection of the food choices we make on a daily basis.
A well-balanced diet with a variety of foods and proper portion sizes is the key to good mental health. There are some specific nutrients that play an important role in brain health, but overall our mental health is influenced by multiple factors in our day-to-day lives including nutrition, physical activity, and adequate rest.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
There are some specific nutrients including healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids) that aid in our brain development. Specifically, EPA and DHA, which are the two main omega-3 fatty acids, play an important role in the functions of our nervous system. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which mean that our bodies can’t make them so we have to get them through our foods. These fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain where they affect brain memory as well as performance. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids can result in fatigue, poor memory, and mood swings or depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are not as prevalent in our diets as they should be, but can be found in foods such as salmon, tuna, halibut, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and olive oil among others. (Tip- Remember to choose ground flaxseed to get the nutritional benefits!)
A Few Tips To Stay Balanced With Your Nutrition and Mental Health:
- Don’t skip out on breakfast- Your body will be charged and ready to start the day with a balanced breakfast in the morning. Breakfast doesn’t have to be eaten right away in the morning, rather try to eat at least 2-3 hours after waking up
- Eat several smaller meals throughout the day- it’s important to not let our bodies go too long without eating. Not only does our mood change when we are hungry, but overall our energy level decreases and are less productive.
- Choose foods that will keep you feeling fuller longer-Meals and snacks that have protein and fiber take longer to digest compared to heavily processed foods, which allows us not to feel as hungry as quickly after eating. Some snack ideas can include whole grain crackers, yogurt, and a cheese stick.
- Let your body rest- We cannot solely rely on food to provide us the energy that we need to make it through the work day. Rather, we need to be able to give our bodies adequate rest to recharge for the next day. 7-8 hours of sleep is needed for most individuals.
- Let caffeine be your friend, but maybe not your BEST friend…- I’m a coffee drinker too, but it’s important to not rely on caffeine to be your main source of energy for the day. Try stick to less than 2 cups a day, and try the other tips listed above to increase your energy throughout the day.
- And lastly, try to get in some physical activity. Even if you take a quick walk on your 15 minute break in the morning or afternoon, that’s a great start! I like use my time in the evenings to take a walk and catch up with family and friends.
- Our mental health is most positively influenced by a healthy and well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, a good eating pattern and a healthy lifestyle. The nutritive value of the food as well as the timing of our eating can both positively and negatively affect our mental health as well as our physical health.
Remember to keep yourself and your health a top priority this season and always. And if you get a little off track, which we all do now and then, just start back slowly with some of my tips above. (Oh, and don’t forget your omega-3’s and your other healthy fats!)
Best wishes on your wellness journey,
Amy Peick, RD, LD