The Health Cocktail: Healthy Food
Welcome to another Health Cocktail my lovely Darwinites, let’s talk food…
So I’ve had the saying ‘healthy food for a healthy mind’ running in my head lately and I have no idea where it’s come from. I took it as a sign that we needed to talk about healthy food… I am the worlds worst at eating healthy, so we will be taking this journey together. I think by this point, with everything in the media and all the healthy cooking shows, we know that we should be eating better and all the physical health benefits that come with that. But what about food affecting our mental and emotional health? Surprisingly it affects it a lot!
We all know that blood sugar affects us physically, if our bloody sugar drops it can make us feel tired, irritable and depressed, ever heard of hangry? That’s me in a nut shell. The best thing to keep your blood sugar at a steady level is to have slow energy releasing foods, such as protein based foods and nuts, seeds, oats and wholegrain. Avoid any food that make your blood sugar rise rapidly, such as sugary snacks, drinks and alcohol (basically sugar…) as your levels will effectively ‘crash’ and leave you feeling depressed and tired.
Clearly veggies are good for us, that’s why none of us eat them because they aren’t filled with the tastiness of McDonald’s sauce. Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and fibre that we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy, when our gut doesn’t get the nutrients it needs this also affects our brain functions. A bad gut can obviously make you feel uncomfortable and irritable, but did you know that your stomach uses many of the same chemicals as your brain? So when you are feeling a little off in the tummy, you may often feel a bit tired, confused or struggle to think clearly, this means that chemicals needed to help these processes are low and you need to eat more greens! Our parent’s weren’t telling tales when they said veggies are good for us…
This one is short and sweet. You need water to live. Drink more. You need at least 2 pints of water a day to stay hydrated, tea and coffee do not count (boo!) as they are actually diuretics, so you lose water more than you take in. When slightly dehydrated you may find it hard to concentrate, think clearly or make decisions, I know when I haven’t drank enough water in the day because I start to get a blinding headache across my forehead… or that could be because I drink hot chocolate everyday… Anyway good drinks to keep you hydrated throughout the day are: water (obvs), diluted fruit juice or herbal & green tea (I do love me some peppermint tea).
Protein contains amino acids that make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings, as well as helping to control those ever important blood sugar levels. So who knew that protein helps control your thoughts and feelings? That explains a lot I think, best things to eat are lean meat, eggs, peas & beans, nuts & seeds, as well as cheese (yes!). Try to avoid factory farm meat as much as possible, it contains a lot more fat and much less nutrients for your body to take in and use to its benefit.
Fat (you need it)
The biggest myth about eating healthy is that you need to cut out all fat, this just isn’t true, your body and brain need fat to keep it healthy, it just needs to be the right type of fat. Oily fat in fact keeps your brain working well, using the good nutrients to help you regulate thoughts and feelings and keep things ticking over nicely. Things that include ‘trans fats’ also contain a lot of sugar, this can give you good feelings in the short term, but it is hard to maintain when they release the energy so quickly. The best source for oily/healthy fat is oily fish and poultry, nuts (almonds and walnuts being the best), olive and sunflower oil, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower are delicious), eggs, cheese (woop!) and avocados (you know those green things that are all the rage at the moment?). Basically, yay for oily fat!
One last lesson is that caffeine is bad, caffeine makes you feel anxious and depressed, it can also disrupt your sleep and gives you withdrawal symptoms when stopped suddenly, so try to avoid this or cut down your intake if possible. Herbal and green tea is the way forward, as hipster as that sounds, it turns out they are probably the less anxious out of everyone, maybe that’s why they‘re so cool and aloof?
So that’s kind of it for the basics really, I am by no means an authority on this subject, as I said we are taking this journey together and learning as we go. If you want more tips read my next post, or contact a dietitian/nutritionist to help you!