Today we are going to explore ‘Eating for Wellness’ which is the 1st of the 6 Pillars of Mental Health (a framework we have developed for ourselves and for our clients to maintain good mental health and wellbeing).
But first I want to ask you a few questions;
Do you believe that your diet (what you eat day to day) has an effect on your mental health and wellbeing?
Do you think that good nutrition equals good mental health?
It is common knowledge that there is a well-established link between diet and physical health but the contribution of diet to mental health (at present) is less understood.
According to The Mental Health Foundation;
‘One of the most obvious yet under recognised factors in the development of mental health is nutrition’
They go on to say;
‘There is a growing body of evidence indicating that nutrition may play an important role in the prevention, development and management of diagnosed mental health problems including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD and dementia’.
But what is it about the food we eat that can help or hinder our mental health?
According to Dr Michael Gregor MD (An American physician, author, and professional speaker on public health issues);
‘In a study of 43,000 women without depression who were followed (alongside their diets) for a dozen years to see who became depressed. Those who ate a more inflammatory dietary pattern, (characterised by more soda, refined grains and meat) became depressed suggesting that chronic inflammation may underlie the association between diet and depression’.
Could it be that inflammation (the result of the body’s natural reaction to bacteria and infection) is a major factor in stimulating and maintaining poor mental health?
If so then it stands to reason that if we could reduce or prevent chronic inflammation in the body then we could tip the balance in our favour when it comes to cultivating and maintaining good mental health and wellbeing…
But how do we do that?
Increasingly, it looks as if the answer is to opt for more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains;
‘The most anti-inflammatory diet is a plant-based diet because of the anti-inflammatory properties of antioxidants.’ Dr Michael Gregor MD
As well as lowering inflammation in the body (by removing free radicals), a predominantly plant based, whole food diet provides lots of vitamins and minerals (also known as micro-nutrients) which are essential for healthy body and brain function;
‘Feeding the brain with a diet that provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water… can protect the brain from the effects of oxidants, which have been shown negatively to impact mood and mental health’
Food for Thought, Mental Health and Nutrition Briefing – The Mental Health Foundation
What does all this mean for organisations, managers, leaders and employees when it comes to good mental health in the workplace?
By promoting ‘Eating for Wellbeing’ businesses and organisations can REALLY help their employees stay mentally healthy and thrive in life and work.
As an organisation it is our mission to empower businesses to effect positive cultural change around mental health and we fully believe that by recognizing, communicating and promoting healthy eating as part of an ongoing mental health and wellbeing programme you can do just that!
For more information and guidance on food guidelines including what food groups to eat along with proportions we recommend downloading ‘Eat Well’ the UK governments food consumption guidelines.
Alternatively, if you are interested in following a fully plant-based whole food diet (backed by the latest science and research) then we recommend visiting nutritionfacts.org – the home of Dr Michael Gregor MD.
Love Claire x