Nutrition and Resilience

Food provides the energy and nutrients we need to be healthy. Healthy food is vital to our physical and mental performance. A diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, fruit, vegetables and low fat dairy products help lower the risk of diabetes and other diseases.

Studies have shown that there is a direct link between the food we eat and our overall mental health including our tendency towards depression.

People need to find out what food choices are right for them. The following options are available

Track your mood and food: This can be done by keeping a mood and food journal.

The Whole 30: This is an elimination diet which lasts for thirty days. You eliminate processed foods, refined sugar, dairy and gluten during this period and eat mainly whole foods.

Drink more water: The average healthy intake of water is between two and three litres per day. Dehydration caused by a lack of water intake can cause unclear thinking, overheated body, constipation and kidney stones.

Eat less sugar: Processed or added sugars increase the risk of health issues such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Reducing your sugar intake can make a huge difference on your physical and mental health.

Five foods that are good for the mind include:

Fatty fish: Since the brain is mainly composed of fat and our bodies are unable to make essential fatty acids, we need to depend on a diet rich in omega-3s to meet our daily needs. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, sardines, seaweed, walnuts. These foods high in omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other mental disorders. Omega-3s also boost memory and learning by supporting the synapses in the brain.

Whole Grains: Complex carbohydrates release glucose slowly. This helps us to feel fuller for longer and provides a constant source of fuel for both the brain and body. Healthy sources of complex carbohydrates include oats, barley, beans, whole wheat products and soy.

Lean Protein: The amino acid tryptophan which is a building block of protein, influences mood by the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is associated with depression. Lean protein food sources such as turkey, chicken, fish, eggs and beans help keep serotonin levels balanced.

Leafy Greens: Leafy greens such as spinach, mustard greens, broccoli are high in folic acid. Deficiencies in folate along with other B vitamins have been associated with higher rates of fatigue, depression and insomnia. Broccoli also contains selenium. Selenium plays an important role in our immune system functioning, reproduction and metabolism of thyroid hormone. Some studies have suggested that low levels of selenium contribute to anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Yoghurts with Active Cultures: Fermented foods including yoghurts with active cultures have been shown to decrease anxiety and stress hormones.

We can blame our busy lives, the affordability of processed foods for our diet and food choices. However we can increase our fruit and vegetable intake and limit our intake of processed foods that come from bags and boxes. Supermarkets such as Lidl sell good quality fruit and vegetables at low prices.

Nutrition is a key factor in resilience and good mental health. It must be remembered that it is one factor and not a substitute for other treatments i.e. talking to a doctor or counsellor.

My next blog topic is Science and Lies: The Impact of Lies on Nutrition Communication and Education.


  1. Pingback: Nutrition and Resilience – Dianna's Easy Real Food Recipes

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