I’ve heard the phrase, “you are what you eat” many times and sorry, body, but some days you are dark chocolate, an apple, and my toddler’s rejected mac and cheese! It wasn’t until I tuned into a recent Foundation webcast, Helping Employees Tap the Link Between Nutrition and Mental Health, that I realized the intense connection between what we eat and how our brains function—The phrase really could be modified: “Your brain is what you eat.”
In the webcast, Lisa Spriet, M.Sc., R.D., a registered dietitian in Ontario, expanded on the connection between what we put into our bodies and how we feel mentally and physically.
Nutrition plays a key role in the prevention and treatment of many mental health-related disorders. These are the 5 mind-nutrition connections I found most fascinating but the webcast goes into a LOT more detail if you are interested in learning more:
- Our brain is 1/50th of our body weight, but uses 25% of our energy requirements—that’s why fueling it is so important.
- The low glycemic carbs in fruits and vegetables supply our body with CONSTANT energy without ups and downs.
- Complex carbs like whole grains and legumes reduce cortisol (stress hormone), provide B vitamins for energy production, and lead to a release of tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin (which stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness).
- Other mood-boosting foods include grapes (including red wine in moderation!), blueberries, onions, garlic, citrus, dark chocolate, coffee and tea, green tea, turmeric, and soy.
- Omega-3 fats (found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, and cod, plus eggs, flax seeds and walnuts) help improve learning, mood, and memory.
This is all interesting, and most of us want to eat healthier, especially knowing how important it is for mental health, but how do we make sustainable changes to our diet?
Here are a couple helpful tips from Lisa:
- Increase veggies at dinner.
- Plan out meals and snacks so it’s easier to make healthy choices on the go.
- Get other family members, friends, and co-workers involved in cooking and sharing meals.
- When you feel stressed and want to eat something unhealthy, choose an activity that lowers stress, unrelated to food—Go for a quick walk, talk to a friend, or meditate.
- Eat what you crave, but in smaller portions.
[Free Webcast: Join us for a discussion on Mental Health at Work: Today’s Lessons for Tomorrow’s Workforce | April 6, 2021]
Tune into the previously recorded webcast, Helping Employees Tap the Link Between Nutrition and Mental Health, (free for Foundation members to view) to learn more. Perhaps it will inspire you to implement healthier eating in your life and throughout your organization.
This year, we are focusing on resilience and mental health for National Employee Benefits Day. Find resources for plan sponsors, and register now to attend a free webcast on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Learn more.
Communications Associate at the International Foundation
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