Food is often described as fuel. But food is much more powerful than that.
Food is actually sort of like a script – it tells the actors in our bodies how to perform. When we eat, we are really delivering messages – do this, release that hormone, don’t release that one! It’s like the biggest, busiest film set you can imagine. Lights, camera, action!
Food has a massive impact on our brains and mood and it is actually something we can take care of for ourselves. However, it’s easy to fall into patterns of unhealthy eating when you’re stressed, low or busy, like during exams.But, if you eat the right things, you’ll find you’ll have more energy to deal with stress or hard work. Plus, you’ll improve your immune system, meaning you’ll get less colds and infections.Give your body what it wants and you’ll find you feel better, mentally and physically.
What do you need to be healthy?
- Carbohydrates (sugars and starchy food), for energy
- Proteins, for building muscle
- Fats, for energy and making cell walls
- Fibre, to keep the gut healthy
- Vitamins and minerals, for a wide range of functions
- Water, to flush out waste products.
Get the balance right
Recent research shows that we eat matters to our mental health. We all respond as individuals to food but there are some basic tips that can help everyone. The one things all the studies show is that eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, fish and wholegrains, with moderate amounts of red meat if you choose is far better than the average Western diet of processed foods, chips, pizza, burgers and fizzy drinks. A balanced diet looks like:
- at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- basing meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
- have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
- eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
- choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
- drink plenty of fluids, preferably water (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)