In these unusual and tough times everyone is navigating it as best they can. Taking care of yourself both mentally and physically is important and can help one adapt to the constantly changing environment. Staying close and connected to your support networks, getting outside in the sun, doing activities you enjoy and eating well are all great ways to keep a positive mindset.
Food and nutrition can soothe the soul. Ever heard of the term ‘comfort food’. It can be delicious, it can bring us joy, it can feel like home, it can trigger memories. Sometimes you don’t even have to eat the food, simply smelling it is enough to have you salivating and feeling good.
However on an even deeper level, there are particular nutrients in some foods which have been shown to support positive mood and mindset. I am sure some of you have seen the new ad on TV saying things like ‘eat more fruit, veg, nuts and grain, it’s the good mood food’. It is true, the foods we eat can have an effect on how we feel. And it is as simple as that. Eating well, from all 5 food groups and getting a wide variety of fruits and veg have been shown to support those with depression and decrease depressive symptoms (Jacka F.N. et al 2018).
Here are 6 examples of how food and its nutrition can support positive mood and mindset:
Salmon – omega 3
Omega 3 is a type of unsaturated fat found commonly in fatty fish and seeds like chia and flax. The two most common types are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and have been linked to lower levels of depression or depressive symptoms.
Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha – probiotics
A great source of beneficial bacteria these fermented foods allow the good bugs to thrive and in turn become part of our guts microbiome (microbiota). With the majority of our body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, appetite, stress response and more) produced in the gut, supporting your gut bugs and having a healthy microbiome may support effective serotonin production. Furthermore, new research is starting to further understand the link between the gut and the brain (more is and needs to be done) however it is suggested a good gut biome is vital for supporting good mental health.
Tea – theanine
Theanine is an amino acid found in tea, in higher amount in green than black, theanine is suggested to support mental function and provide a calming effect (which I feel is a combination of the process of drinking a warm tea and the theanine).
Dark choc – tryptophan and feels of eating/ endorphins
Chocolate, I don’t think I need to explain this one. I am sure everyone knows chocolate is commonly known to make people feel good (not to mention a common aphrodisiac when combined with strawberries). However, did you know dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content the better) is where high amounts of tryptophan are found. Tryptophan is an amino acid which then gets converted to serotonin. Combined with endorphins which are released when the chocolate hits your tongue, there is no wonder it makes everyone feel good.
Whole grains and prebiotics
Wholemeal, whole-grains, nuts, seeds, legume and beans. Fibre Fibre Fibre. It’s as simple as that. Packed with dietary fibre to keep you regular and pre-biotic fibre to feed your gut bugs these foods are so important to support a healthy gut biome and in turn support mental health and mood.
Banana – B6
As they say don’t have a no no have a na na. A great snack option full of fibre, slow releasing energy as well as vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps support the production of both serotonin and dopamine and therefore suggested to support good mood.
Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Itsiopoulos, C. et al. The SMILES trial: an important first step. BMC Med 16, 237 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1228-y
The following terms are ALL just sugar:
Dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose.
Did you know honey is sugar. Confused? Understandably, and so today I hope to clear up a little confusion around the infamous sugar, aka the multitude of names listed above.
So, what is sugar? The technical name for sugar or what we dietitians often call it is; glucose. Glucose is a carbohydrate. It is our bodies predominant source of energy. When we consume carbohydrates like rice or bread, they get digested and broken down into glucose in our bloodstream. Our body then shoots out a hormone called insulin which opens the door for glucose to enter our cells and be used as fuel.
Problems can arise, particularly in the context of diabetes, when either not enough insulin is produced (type 1 diabetes) or insulin does not work effectively, and you develop a resistance to its effect (type 2 diabetes). Type 2 diabetes was previously called late onset diabetes because people were getting it in later life. However, as it started to develop in younger individuals, it was changed to type 2 because late onset was in fact not correct. For those without diabetes excess amounts of sugar in the blood stream over time makes it hard for our insulin to keep up with the demand. This means that glucose stays in your blood for longer and over time this can cause serious damage to many parts of your body including the heart, kidneys, liver and blood vessels.
Sugar is naturally found in many foods, such as fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, but sugar is also frequently added to food products and this is often called ‘free sugar’ or ‘added sugar’. Because of this, and the multitude of different names, comparing 2 processed/ packaged foods in terms of sugar content can often be difficult. What does a reasonable amount of added sugar look like? The WHO recommends to limit the amount of added sugar to 5-10 tsp per day (WHO, 2015). Sure, that helps when cooking or if you add it to your beverages, but what does that look like on food labels? When comparing two like food products always use the 100g column and ideally items with 15g or less for sugar are a recommended choice.
I guess some of you may still be wondering about honey. Well honey is predominantly a combination of both fructose and glucose, as well as a bunch of other simple sugars such as those listed above (White & Doner, 1980). So regardless of how you look at it, honey is sugar, just like maple syrup, golden syrup, maltose and sucrose are all sugar. Honey is also delicious, and I personally love drizzling some honey on my oats in the morning.
Take home: Sugar is also called multiple other names (particularly on food labels), however at the end of the day they are all metabolised and form glucose in the blood stream. Our bodies have a natural ability, through the hormone insulin, to regulate our blood sugar levels. It is when excess amounts over time can do us harm (potentially resulting in a resistance to the effects of insulin). Sugar does NOT need to be avoided, it is in some of the foods we enjoy the most and naturally found in many nutritious fruits and vegetables. If you find the sugar content is high in a particular product check the ingredient list, it is likely under another name. When reading the label aiming for 15g or less (in the 100g column) for sugar is an ideal choice. With this information we have the power to make the choice that is right for us and by sticking close to these and the WHO’s recommendations will help reduce the risk of poor outcomes related to large amounts of sugar consumption.
10/8/2020 0 Comments
What is mindful eating? Mindful eating stems significantly from the concepts around mindfulness, a Buddhist tradition and common practise. Now you may be thinking, oh boy, Buddhism and mindfulness quick change the channel. Or maybe you are thinking, hang on, what has this got to do with my food and what I am eating? And believe me, as a young dietitian I never thought I would be drawing on principles of mindfulness to help people with nutrition. However, if we look at it from a different perspective all we are simply doing is allowing people to re-establish their ability to do what they already could;
-Know when to eat
-Know what to eat
-Know how much to eat and,
-Know how to tell they are full
The concepts around mindful eating aim to teach people how to re-connect with their own internal hunger and fullness cues. Your body is wired to support you. You have natural triggers such as knowing when to go to the toilet, when to drink some water or when to eat and when to stop. Unlike the first two, hunger and fullness cues unfortunately have been lost over time with little attention payed to them. With both non-judgemental hunger and fullness awareness, combined with the in the moment focus on the act of eating, mindful eating aims to re-wire this natural response.
Sounds simple sure, but I ask you, are you truly paying attention when you eat? Are all the senses being put to work; touch, taste, smell, sight and sound, truly exploring the food in front of you in a non-judgmental way. Do you find sometimes you could be in front of the TV snacking one-minute, the next minute your show has finished and the whole bag is empty, or you have got up to get more without realising you ever left the couch? Often distractions can be a blessing and a curse preventing us from being truly aware of eating. Mindful eating combined with hunger awareness improves your body’s natural ability to stop eating and truly enjoy the food that was just eaten.
Have a go: Grab a food item, a snack food is often a good option such a chocolate or piece of fruit. Now take as much time as you can. Think about what it took for the food to get in front of you, feel it, smell it and taste it. Take your time, what does the food look like, explore where you are and listen to the sounds around you. Do this in a completely non-judgmental way. If a thought comes to mind let it come, let it go and keep exploring the food. Once consumed imagine where it is going. Think of what this food is doing for you and your body. Likely it is providing you with energy. I imagine it has brought you some joy to eat it too. Do any memories come to mind from this food?
Then, pick another food and eat it as you usually would. Any difference?
Head to the resources page to download the guided mindful eating audio.
This may not be a surprise to some, but pumpkin is technically a fruit given it contains seeds. This also goes for foods like tomato, zucchini and cucumber which to most people you would assume they are a vegetable. Again, technically they are a fruit, however we don’t categorise them as such due to their lower concentration of fructose (a carbohydrate) which is found in categorical fruits such as apples, pears, mandarin and watermelon in higher amounts.