When you think about what to do to keep mentally healthy, our eating habits are not the first to spring to mind. What and how we eat does impact our mental health.
Australian psychiatric clinical practice guidelines recommends healthy eating for the prevention and management of mood disorders. Do these three things to eat your way towards a healthy mind.
1. Eat a healthy diet
While it sounds too simple to be true, research suggests that a high quality diet is beneficial to mental wellbeing and is recommended to reduce the risk of depression. A high quality diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds, with limited unhealthy foods (those high in fat, salt and added sugar). If this sounds familiar, it is because this is in line with the current dietary recommendations for the general Australian population.
A recent study found that Australian women who ate in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines were less likely to develop depressive symptoms regardless of social and physical factors. While healthy eating is just one of many ways to keep mentally healthy, small changes have been observed to significantly improve mental health. Visit eatforhealth.gov.au for tips for eating well.
2. Enjoy eating in company
With busy schedules and the current pandemic, it can be hard to find opportunities to enjoy a meal with others – whether family, friends or colleagues. While food itself provides us with nutrients essential for survival, eating in company fosters opportunities for social interaction and connection, both of which are important for mental wellbeing.
Eating alone is suggested to be independently associated with depressive symptoms. So, if you have a friend, relative or colleague who lives alone, invite them over to prepare and share a home-cooked meal. If they are in lockdown or live elsewhere, do this virtually.
3. Act, Belong, Commit
Keeping active and involved in our community is one of the most important things we can do for our mental wellbeing. Apply the Act Belong Commit philosophy, when it comes to healthy eating:
- Act on any yearning to try a new cuisine or cooking skill by borrowing a cookbook from your local library, or searching the internet for related recipes or cook-along videos.
- Belong to your local community by attending a group nutrition and cooking program – book into the free Food Sensations® for Adults program through the Act Belong Commit directory.
- And finally, commit to spending more time with others over food – enjoy a home-cooked meal with company, or share some kitchen time with an older relative who can teach you a new skill or family recipe.