Let’s assume you just bought a new, beautiful, high-quality premium car. You have high expectations of it, and you know you will rely on it for years to come to bring you safely and comfortably from A to B and beyond. It’s one of your most cherished and important assets. What would you say if I suggested to just fill it up with cheap low-quality fuel? I thought so.
Why then, do we expect our brains – the precious prime organ being involved in every single physical, mental and emotional aspect of our being – to run just as effectively and sustainably on the diet equivalent of low-grade fuel, junk-food? I don’t want to over-stretch the analogy, but your brain functions best when you run it on “premium fuel” containing high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The exciting new field of nutritional psychiatry is finding more and more evidence for further relationships between what you eat and your mental health and wellbeing. For example, researchers have conducted studies which compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean and the traditional Japanese diets, to a typical “Western” one. The traditional diets are not only high in fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, unprocessed grains, eggs, fish and seafood, while containing only small amounts of lean meats and low-fat dairy - they also miss the staple ingredients of the “Western” dietary pattern: processed, refined and high-sugar foods. Results indicated that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Further research has also shown that a healthy diet is linked to better stress management, improved sleep quality, increased concentration, and better mental wellbeing in general.
So what should you do? Start with small changes. Remember how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. In other words, choose manageable steps that you can actually stick you and make a habit of, such as swapping an unhealthy afternoon snack for a healthy one, like some tasty nuts or a juicy apple. To avoid unhealthy “emotional eating”, develop coping strategies that are not related to food, like exercise or mindfulness, during times of stress. Or visit one of the charming local farmers' markets to stock up on fresh, colourful fruit and veggies for the week.
Just remember how you’d treat that expensive car.
Organisational Culture and Support Officer, QLS Solicitor Support (QLS Ethics and Practice Centre)
7 November 2019