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Eat well this March

National Nutrition Month aims to raise awareness about the importance of making informed food choices. The campaign focuses on educating people on the benefits of eating a balanced diet and helping them develop healthier lifestyles. In turn, encouraging people to choose healthier food options.

What does a healthy diet look like?

A healthy diet consists of eating a variety of foods from each of the five main food groups, in order to consume a wide range of nutrients. The five main food groups are:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Starchy carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Dairy products
  • Oils and spreads

How do our food choices impact our mental health?

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health; therefore, it is vital we fuel our bodies with the essential nutrients it needs. Research has found that individuals who ate a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables had higher levels of wellbeing, compared to those who didn’t. Highlighting the vital link between mental health and food.

In the UK, 1 in 6 people in any given week experience a common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Emerging research emphasizes how food can affect the likelihood of developing various mental health disorders such as depression.  In 2017, a study found that individuals who had a diet characterized by a high intake of foods such as fruit, vegetables, fish and low- fat dairy products had a decreased risk of depression. In contrast, individuals with a diet consisting of low intakes of fruit and vegetables but high intakes of foods such as processed meat, sweets and high-fat dairy products had an increased risk of depression.

Healthy eating also shows promise for reducing depressive symptoms. A study found that participants who had moderate-to-severe depression and who ate a healthy diet for 12 weeks, alongside nutritional counselling, had a reduction in their depressive symptoms including their mood and anxiety.

Emerging research suggests that a Mediterranean style diet also shows promise for reducing symptoms of depression. Research in 2019 found that a Mediterranean- style diet caused a reduction in participants depression which was sustained 6 months after the intervention. Highlighting that nutrition and the food we eat can have an impact on our mental health. 

Top tips to eating healthy

A healthy diet is an important factor contributing to your both your mental and physical health, therefore some ways you can eat healthier are:

  • Eat breakfast;
  • Avoid eating foods which affect your mood by causing your blood pressure to increase and then decrease rapidly in large quantities. Examples of these foods include but are not limited to sweets, fizzy drinks and alcohol;
  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Eat your five a day;
  • Plan your meals and make dishes that include foods from variety of food groups;
  • Get involved in cooking your healthy meals from scratch as this makes it more enjoyable. It is also great way to encourage your children to cook and eat healthy too;
  • Make small changes to your diet gradually.

Good nutrition is essential for both your physical and mental health. If you would like further information about how your diet affects your health and ways to make positive changes to your diet, please visit the websites below.