Looking for a way to beat the “COVID-19 Blues”?
Fuelling both your brain and body with the right foods can help!
During these crazy COVID-19 times, it’s understandable to experience different emotions such as loneliness, boredom, anxiety and depression. But there are things we can do to help us better manage these feelings.
Did you know that eating certain foods can help lift our mood? The strong connection between nutrition and mental health is only just starting to get the attention it deserves. It might seem an unlikely link, but this connection should really come as no surprise. After all, our brain is an organ and as such, it requires specific nutrients to function effectively.
In general, following a healthy pattern of eating is linked with better stress management, improved sleep quality, increased concentration and better mental well-being.
So, when it comes to our diets, what exactly can we do to optimise and protect our mental health?
Eat for good gut health.
Did you know there is more and more evidence to suggest our gut health has a lot to do with our mood and overall mental health?
Our guts are made up of trillions of microorganisms, known collectively as the gut microbiome.
A diet rich in fibre and predominately whole foods helps to create a healthy and diverse gut microbiome which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Lower levels of inflammation and stress have been associated with reduced rates of depression and other mental health disorders.
On the other hand, highly processed ‘junk’ food has been linked with much higher levels of inflammation, which has been shown to increase the risk depression.
Be inspired by the Mediterranean way of life.
Whilst living on a private Mediterranean island isn’t a viable option for most, that doesn’t mean we can’t eat like we’re on a Mediterranean vacation! Research suggests that a traditional Mediterranean diet— consisting primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, oily fish, beans, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and olive oil — doesn’t just promote a healthy body, but can actually make us happier, too.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in omega-3 fats, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that is often linked with good mood and brain health. It’s found in foods like oily fish, extra virgin olive oil and some nuts. Research suggests that omega-3 may help reduce the symptoms of depression. Omega-3 may make it easier for serotonin (the happy hormone) to pass through our brain and get to the cells associated with creating happy feelings. To maximise the benefits of omega-3 fats, aim to include oily fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel in your diet two to three times per week.
Following a Mediterranean diet is not just about the food! Sharing a meal together and practising mindful eating are an important part of the Mediterranean lifestyle and this has had proven effects on overall mood and mental wellbeing.
Eat regular meals.
Keeping your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day can do wonders for your mood and energy levels. That’s why we need to listen to our body and learn to understand what it is signalling to us. Some people may feel the negative mood effect of hunger before they feel the physical sensation of hunger. You may be familiar with the term ‘hangry’, especially if you tend to skip meals or snack on sugary foods. That is because hunger can cause a shift in your hormones and brain processes, leaving you with negative emotions like irritability and fogginess.
Eating regular meals and fuelling both your brain and body with the right foods can help to keep ‘hanger’ at bay and keep your mood up.
Foods to focus on:
- Nuts and seeds are high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats and fibre. Additionally, they provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources.
- Fruits and Vegetables – both are loaded with B vitamins, which are responsible for mood and increased energy levels.
- Beans and lentils – These little but mighty pulses provide a good supply of fibre and folate, a B vitamin that helps develop the nervous system. Folate deficiency is associated with depression and adding more of it to your diet can help boost your mood.
- Wholegrains – Low GI carbs like wholegrain breads, cereals and brown rice provide lots of gut-friendly fibre and help to regulate blood glucose levels which in turn maintain our energy levels and ultimately our mood.
- Salmon is one the richest food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are extremely important for optimal brain function, memory and mood. Eating a diet containing these omega-3’s will help lower your risk of depression and can improve your mood.
- Eggs are a good source of the nutrient choline. Choline has a number of vital functions including optimal cell membrane function and neurotransmission thought to be related to mood and energy levels.
Fuelling your brain and body with the right foods is one of the best ways to ensure you beat the COVID Blues.
The single most important dietary change you can make to be healthier is to eat five serves of veggies and two serves of fruit each day. But it can be hard, which is why Lite n’ Easy’s complete meal solutions are the way to go. You’ll get to eat the right foods in the right portions throughout the day and get your daily 5+2 simply by enjoying our complete solution with a huge range of delicious meals. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or click here to order now.
Larissa Robbins is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutrition & Dietetics) from Queensland University of Technology. She has extensive experience working across Australia and the UK in the food industry, corporate health, hospitals and private practice. Larissa has been working as a dietitian since 2011, and plays a key role in nutrition training and development at Lite n’ Easy.