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Food for thought: Mental Health and Eating

There is a well-established connection between our gut and our mental health. So much of our body is interlinked, so what we choose to put in our mouth really does matter.

In a time of uncertainty, we as a population often reach for comfort foods: sweets, chocolate, crisps, to name a few. But is this what is best for our mental health? With such a strong relationship between our gut and our mental health, what should we be eating?

Our gut holds around 100 trillion bacteria, and if these bacteria aren’t diverse enough, it can lead to inflammation. This inflammation has a direct correlation with our mental health, particularly the risk of depression. Diversity of gut bacteria is ensured by eating a variety of foods and food groups.

Our brain is largely made up of fat, so the fats we choose to eat have a direct correlation to our brain health. We often think about the impact of what we eat on our skin, heart, stomach, etc, but we rarely associate our food choices with our brain. If anything, our brain is the thing we should be considering here.

Many studies have been done which show an established link between eating healthily and long-term happiness. Although sometimes this is a lot easier said than done, there are many ways in which we can incorporate some healthier elements into our day-to-day diet. Choosing to take your own lunch a few times a week rather than the food van outside work or choosing fruit and nuts rather than chocolate for a snack, are easy ways we can directly have a positive impact on our brain health. But food should never be restrictive. What we need in our diet is diversity, and that is easily achievable even if you’re a staunch chocolate lover like me.

In our busy schedules, it can feel hard to make time to eat breakfast, especially with other mouths to feeds too. Eating breakfast, despite how busy you are, helps to improve your concentration and to balance your mood. In the same vein, try to avoid ‘using’ foods for immediate benefits, too, will help. Avoiding using sugar for a ‘rush’, and caffeine for a ‘hit’ will ultimately stabilise your mood and help you in the long run. Although all these habits can feel hard to curb, there is an incredibly large chance that they will eventually improve aspects of your mental health such as sleep, hunger, and happiness.

Serotonin, our body’s mood stabiliser, is essential for mental health. 95% of our serotonin is formed in the digestive tract, so making sure we fuel our body in the correct way has never been more important. Here at Hides Fine Foods, we believe that food should be tasty yet also nourishing for our body. We know that we should be eating our 5-a day, but what can we do to actively improve our gut health? Here are some of the best things we can eat to make a real impact:

 

  • Fermented foods. Starting with one of the least obvious here, fermented foods are a great source of good gut bacteria. The mind immediately takes us to German Sauerkraut, or to Korea for Kimchi, but if these foods don’t fit in with your lifestyle there are so many easy ways to incorporate in fermented foods. Kombucha, a fermented tea, has recently taken the world by storm, and definitely is something to try. Active yoghurts and Kefir are a wonderful way to start the day with a nutritious kick, but even the humble pickle will help the biodiversity of your gut.

 

  • Wholegrains. You hear this all the time – choose brown bread over white…but it really does make a difference. Incorporating grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and bulgur will add diversity to your diet, improving your gut health. The beauty of these grains is that they are perfect to bring with you to work as lunch, and you get such a lot out of such a cheap ingredient.

  • Polyphenols. You may not have heard of polyphenols before, but they are everywhere in our food, digested by our gut bacteria. They’re a micronutrient which is found in plants, such as fruit, vegetables, tea and even dark chocolate and wine (well, strictly, grape juice)! They work like dietary antioxidants, so are worth a thought when considering improving your diet.

  • Prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods contain soluble fibre, which is what makes them so good for our gut health. They fuel a specific bacterium in the gut, which promotes multiplication of this good bacteria. You can find prebiotics in foods such as oats, banana, asparagus, artichoke, leeks, onions, and garlic, all easy to incorporate in your diet, and extremely tasty too.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid rich foods. You find omega-3 fatty acids particularly in cold-water fatty fish such as tuna and salmon, nuts and seeds, and plant oils. Cutting back on a portion of red meat a week, for example, and replacing with a fillet of salmon is an easy way to take care of your gut health.

 

 

The information in this article is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. This should not be used for health or diet recommendations. Third party sources have been provided where used. Some estimates have been used in this article and should be checked by the reader prior to consideration. Hides Fine Foods takes no responsibility for the subsequent use or application of the information provided in this article.

 

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