Improving our diet can profoundly affect our mood, cognitive function and energy levels, ultimately enhancing our overall wellbeing. The connection between food and mood is well-established, and it is crucial to prioritise healthy eating for both our physical and mental health.
Emotional eating, which involves consuming food in response to positive or negative emotions, is closely tied to our brain’s reward system. Stress, a common emotion during isolation, can lead to overeating, cravings for high-sugar and high-fat foods and weight gain due to increased cortisol levels. However, these temporary mood boosts are short-lived.
It is important to focus on certain dietary elements to support our mood during isolation. Adequate B vitamin intake is essential for energy conversion, and sources like whole grains, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables and legumes are recommended. Glucose, obtained from carbohydrates, is necessary for mental alertness and can be found in potatoes, pasta, fruits and vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, walnuts and flaxseeds, play a vital role in brain health and cognitive function.
Eating healthily on a budget is possible by prioritising canned, frozen, and own-brand products. Pre-planning and prepping meals can reduce anxiety and ensure consistent nutrition. Only enter a supermarket with a shopping list to resist stockpiling and impulse buying. This time at home presents an opportunity to experiment with new recipes and develop cooking skills.
Staying hydrated is crucial for brain function, as mild dehydration can impair cognitive performance, mood and increase anxiety. Aim to drink the recommended 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily. Using a drinking bottle with measurement units and setting reminders can help track fluid intake effectively.
Mindful eating, being present in the moment while consuming food, enhances enjoyment and digestion. Practising mindful breathing before meals can increase awareness and satisfaction with our food.
Maintaining a structured routine, including regular mealtimes and making conscious food choices, is crucial for our physical and mental wellbeing. Prioritising nutrition, hydration and mindful eating allows us to support our brain function, elevate mood and provide our bodies with the essential nutrients to successfully navigate these challenging times.