Feed your mental health

GOOD FOR YOU: A healthy diet (with a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts and whole grains) can actually improve mental health. Photo: Brooke Lark
GOOD FOR YOU: A healthy diet (with a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts and whole grains) can actually improve mental health. Photo: Brooke Lark

Just like physical fitness, mental fitness takes regular effort. But sometimes life can get in the way of improving your mental health. That's why headspace has come up with seven tips to help manage a healthy head space. This week's tip is brought to you by headspace Batemans Bay.

Tip #4: Eat well for a healthy head space

When you think of improving your mental health, you may not think about changing the food you eat, but there is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel. An unhealthy diet can be associated with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, but a healthy diet can actually improve mental health.

Here's how eating well can improve your head space:

  • helps you get a better night's sleep
  • gives you more energy
  • improves concentration
  • makes you less likely to crave foods with high sugar, salt or fat.

headspace National Youth Reference Group member Kimberley said a healthy diet helped her head space. "When I started trying to improve my mental health I also knew I needed to improve the way I was eating. I started by having healthier snacks around and cooking up big meals. That way, when I was hungry, I had something that I could eat."

How can I start eating a healthier diet?

Professor Felice Jacka is director of the Food and Mood Centre. Here are her tips to eating a healthier diet for mental health.

  • Often we turn to unhealthy snacks when stressed. It's good to develop coping strategies not related to food, like exercise or mindfulness.
  • We know some foods are good for a healthy mind. So make sure your diet includes colourful fruits and vegetables, foods high in fibre (wholegrain cereals and bread, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts), fermented foods like unsweetened yogurt, olive oil, and fish (tinned is fine).
  • Make small changes that are easy to stick to. Start by swapping an unhealthy afternoon snack for a healthy one, like fruit.
  • You don't have to be perfect. A burger or a chocolate bar are fine every now and then (say, once on the weekend) but make sure your diet includes a variety of nutritious foods, most of the time.
  • Try to avoid too much red meat - keep it to three to four times per week.

When you're feeling stressed it's important to put healthy habits in place to give yourself a better chance of coping with challenges. If you feel like you need support reach out for help. headspace Batemans Bay is open for young people aged 12 to 25. Phone 1800 718 383 or visit headspace.org.au/batemansbay.

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