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Nutrition and Mental Health

by Lauren Mark
Salad 2756467 1920
 

What we eat affects how we feel, not only physically, but mentally as well. In fact, making healthy eating choices is linked to improved mood, higher energy levels, and clearer thinking. Food is the fuel that our bodies run on – like gas to a car, we need it to function!

The quality of the ‘fuel’ we feed ourselves impacts how well our bodies work. Processed, high-fat, and sugary foods may taste good, but they do little to provide the nutrients that our bodies need to work properly. These sorts of foods cause our blood sugar levels to rise and drop quickly, which lead to energy and mood swings, making us feel tired and irritable.

On the other hand, there are foods that are known to regulate blood sugar and keep it steady, which leads to increased energy levels and mood stability. Examples of these healthy food options include oatmeal, rice, whole grain bread and cereals, and nuts and seeds, among others. Eating smaller amounts of food at regular intervals throughout the day (rather than three big meals) can also help to avoid blood sugar crashes that leave us tired and cranky.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and protein. They also advise to choose protein from plants more often than meats, foods with healthy fats versus saturated fats, and to limit or avoid highly processed foods.

Along with healthy food choices, what we choose to drink can also affect our mental and physical health. Normal daily activity leads to the loss of about 2 litres (or 6-8 glasses) of water, which means we need to be replenishing that fluid each day to feel healthy. This can be achieved through drinking plain water, or other water-containing beverages (ex. Herbal tea), and by avoiding or limiting the liquids containing caffeine and alcohol, which cause dehydration.

Together, making healthy food and drink choices will not only improve your physical health, but your mental health, too!

For more information on healthy options, please visit Canada's Food Guide website.