As everyone is retreating at home due to the pandemic, more and more people are opting to cook at home. This may seem as a good thing as people will be cooking more homemade food in order to fill their stomachs, however that is not the case. Instead, there has been an unexpected rise in comfort and convenience store food.
After all, parents all over the world are trying to find the balance between work at home and responsibility with their home life. Additionally, the case might also be that the budget is tight in certain households. Convenience store food offers just all that: easy, comforting foods in a short amount of time with low price points (though the comforting effect lasts for just a moment).
But all of this does not come without a heavy price on the physical and mental health. Research has found that our diet has a closer link to our mental health more than it was previously hypothesized. Depending on what we eat, the emerging field of nutritional psychology contends that we might even have an increased rated of mental illness, particularly depression.
On the other hand, diets that follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating which includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and olive oil have been linked with lower rates of depression. Dietary fiber appears central to gut health, in which recent findings provide further support for diet as a key modifiable factor in gut health, and in depression risk. A diet change of just a few weeks has been found to lift moods. For that reason, eating healthy is crucial to maintain our sanity during these trying times.
Here are quick tips for healthy eating:
- Getting your 5 a day. This meant eating the daily amount of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. It’s one of the most important points in this paragraph, for vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fiber we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy.
- Looking after your gut. Looking after your gut is also another point worth stressing on, as the state of your gut reflects how you are feeling emotionally. Stress and anxiety can cause your gut to slow down or speed up. But you can counter that by taking care of your gut: eat plenty of fibers, fluid and exercise regularly. Other than that, you will also need to eat fruits, vegetables, beans, live yogurt and other probiotics. Be warned that it might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust.
- Getting enough protein. Protein is an important nutrient as it contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. For more protein intake, consume more of lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.
- Managing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can give you a quick burst of energy. Many drink it to remain awake and alert as well as manage drowsiness, headaches, and migraines. However, on the downside, drinking it can react negatively towards some people including making you feel anxious, depressed or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. Caffeine is in: tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and other manufactured energy drinks. If you drink tea, coffee or cola regularly, try switching to decaffeinated versions. You might feel noticeably better quite quickly if you drink less caffeine or avoid it altogether.
- Eating the right fats. Fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) are crucial in order to keep the brain working well. The key is to eat the right fats rather than avoid fats altogether. Healthy fats are found in: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs.
- Avoid ‘trans fats’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. Finally, try to avoid eating ‘trans fats’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. This may not be easy as it is in the list of ingredients of most comfort foods such as shop-bought cakes and biscuits. A new research has found that eating too much trans fats is linked to increased risk of depression. It may seem tempting when you are feeling low, but this kind of fat isn’t good for your mood or your physical health in the long run.