Whether you’re as disciplined as a soldier when it comes to healthy eating, or you go through phases, by now you’ve probably realised that when you eat better, you feel better. And you’re not alone – research has not only shown that eating a well-balanced diet may help improve mental wellbeing, but certain foods may also help prevent anxiety and depression.
Now, before we go into more detail about which foods may be beneficial for mental health, remember good mental wellbeing is the outcome of a combination of factors, and food is just one piece of the puzzle. If you feel you’re struggling with your mental health, or know someone who is, there is no substitute for professional help, so please ensure you speak to your GP or take advantage of phone services such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue.
So what foods should you be eating to help improve your mental wellbeing?
Here are the top 5 items you can start adding to your diet now.
(Raw) fruits & vegetables You know vegetables and fruits are good for your overall health, but studies have shown that eating them raw can have particularly positive impacts on mental health. While it may not be practical to eat all vegetables raw, experts were able to narrow down the most effective ones to carrots, dark leafy greens, lettuce, cucumber, apples, grapefruit, and fresh berries. Bananas and avocados should also get a special mention as they’re rich in B vitamins, which play a role in neurotransmitter production. If you’re not sure where to start with getting raw fruits and vegetables into your diet, one of the simplest ways can be with green smoothies. Another simple tip can be to experimequeeze in a portion of fruit, but can also add nt with salads – adding sliced apples or other fruits to your usual leafy garden salad is not only an easy way to ssweetness and texture.
- Nuts Nuts have also been shown to have numerous benefits for mental health. Firstly, eating a handful of nuts daily has been shown to help improve memory by up to 60%. Nuts also contain ‘non-nutrient bioactives’, which include flavonoids, polyphenols and antioxidants, and B vitamins, which help your body cope better with stress management. In terms of which nuts to eat, walnuts top the list in terms of benefits for brain health, followed closely by almonds and hazelnuts. Remember though, nuts are calorie dense, and it can be very easy to eat a few handfuls in one sitting. Instead, try adding a handful of nuts to your stir-fries or salads so you can make sure you’re controlling your portions.
- Oily Fish You may have heard the line ‘fish makes you smarter’ at some point, and it turns out there is some science behind this. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are important for brain function and development in all stages of life – even from when we’re inside the womb. Furthermore, omega-3’s have anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve depression. If you feel you currently do not get enough oily fish into your diet, try adding some to your standard weeknight meals – for example, instead of adding chicken to your pasta, add salmon, or instead of homemade beef/chicken pies, try making fish pies. And if you opt for a non-animal-based diet, then flax, chia and hemp seeds are also great sources of Omega 3.
Dark chocolate Is there any better news than finding out that something like chocolate can be good for physical and mental health? In a survey of over 13,000 people, those who reported eating dark chocolate were 70% less likely to report having suffered depression. Only one catch though – it needs to be dark chocolate, as the same effect was not observed for milk chocolate. Now this isn’t a licence to tear open a block of dark chocolate at the end of every stressful day. Those in the study who consumed dark chocolate reported eating only 12 grams a day, so it doesn’t take a lot for dark chocolate to produce benefits.
Yogurt We all know the probiotics found in yogurt does wonders for our gut health. Many experts also believe there is a connection between your gastrointestinal tract and your brain, and probiotics play a crucial role in producing the neurotransmitters that affect your mood. Another study also found that women who a serving of yogurt a day were 34% less likely to become depressed compared to women who ate less than half a serving a week. If you’re lactose intolerant or vegan, the good news is that yogurt doesn’t have be from cows milk – probiotics in coconut yogurt and any other non-animal based yogurt can also be just as effective.
Mental Health Support – LifeWorks
While the above foods have been shown to be associated with enhanced mental wellbeing, it is also important to remember that foods can only help to a certain extent. Few businesses can effectively support employee mental health and wellbeing without the assistance of a specialist provider. Aon has partnered with LifeWorks to provide an affordable counselling and support program to optimise mental, social, physical and financial wellbeing. LifeWorks can help to remove the barriers that prevent employees from seeking support, all at the click of a button.
With mobile phone-based technology, LifeWorks offers ongoing pro-active support, not just in times of crisis, so employees don’t hesitate to get help when they need it.
Start supporting your employee’s mental health, while simultaneously protecting your business, today by visiting aon.com.au/lifeworks to find out more or download a brochure. If you believe you may be struggling with your mental health, please contact Lifeline or Beyond Blue.
Aon has an arrangement with LifeWorks whereby Aon may refer opportunities to LifeWorks. If you purchase any of LifeWorks’ services Aon will receive a commission that is a percentage of the remuneration. Further information can be provided upon request.
Aon has taken care in the production of this article and the information contained in it has been obtained from sources that Aon believes to be reliable. Aon does not make any representation as to the accuracy of the information received from third parties and is unable to accept liability for any loss incurred by anyone who relies on it. The recipient of this article is responsible for their use of it.
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