You know the famous saying, “You are what you eat.” Typically, people say it referring to weight gain as a lighthearted way of telling someone to eat clean to stay fit. While that may be true, the saying has a much deeper meaning – one that affects your mental health.
What you eat can play a role in how you feel emotionally. It’s important to do mental health checks with yourself – how’s your anxiety? Are you feeling depressed? If so, it may be time to change your diet. In an article for Well + Good, nutritional psychologist Dr. Uma Naidoo says that during times of uncertainty (ahem – COVID), it’s normal to want to take comfort in comfort foods. However, these poor options can only worsen your mental health.
“Eating more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats—such as olive oil and avocado—while cutting back on added sugars will go a long way to a healthier balance of your gut bacteria, which has shown to help alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression,” she said in the interview.
Basically, avoiding unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium will help to keep your body feeling fueled and your head clear from a fog. Dr. Naidoo says that, after choosing the healthy foods at the grocery store, it’s ok to indulge in a treat – but to limit the quantity.
“While it’s important to have some enjoyable treats at a time like this, the key word is moderation. Have your favorite not-so-healthy snacks but share them among your family or simply ration out smaller portions,” she says.
It’s also important to take note of the biggest offenders that causes anxiety: caffeine. Coffee, tea and energy drinks can cause people to feel anxious side effects that they didn’t assume was from caffeine. If this sounds like you, taking a break from your morning jo or nighttime tea could potentially help you feel less of a buzz.
Food is only half the equation – it’s also extremely important to get your daily exercise in. In times where working from home 24/7 is now a part of our everyday lives, being active can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, therefore contributing to our mental wellbeing.
In summary, here is the list of foods you need to get on your next shopping trip:
-Whole grains (quinoa, rice, oats)
Healthy fats (avocado, eggs, fatty fish, nuts)
At a time when our mental sanity is being tested at an all-time high, be kind to your body and your mind. You may be surprised about how much you really are “what you eat.”