Written by Hayley Philbin
Although I am not a dietician, I have experimented with food and read around the topic enough to know what you eat matters hugely to your mental health!
In fact a considerable body of evidence is growing and experts in the field are pointing to what they call nutritional psychiatry to explain mental well being with scientists proving that mental disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit disorders, depression, dementia and schizophrenia, for example, can be directly linked back to diet!
The physical benefits of clean eating are obvious but the mental benefits interestingly are not. At times when I feel fuzzy, lethargic or generally lack focus, I usually haven’t had a particularly healthy day and in these times have usually packed my diet with white carbs, fast food or lots of sweet treats, chocolate and cakes being my absolute guilty pleasure!
However - for the most part - and particularly since having a baby - I have become very conscious of what I put into my body! Growing a baby through pregnancy and then exclusive breast feeding gave me a monumental task of producing and keeping healthy a little person. Giving my body fruit, veg and whole grains has become very important to me! I like to know exactly where the food I am putting in my mouth has come from and I can be confident knowing this when I am preparing food myself which means a lot of time skimming the periphery of the supermarkets and spending less time in the middle aisles where food in jars, frozen meals and packets of crisps and biscuits reside!
13 months into motherhood and a domestic goddess in the kitchen I am not, however, I do make an effort to make family meals that everyone can enjoy yet are packed with vitamins and goodness! For example I like to make my own sauces packed with hidden vegetables which I throw on whole grain pastas or chicken and have even been known to bake a tasty and high in omega 3 salmon and cod pie again packed with all the goodness of vegetables! I generally accompany meals with a raw salad so to be sure I’m still getting the best from my food and to make up for any lost nutrients from cooking the veg in the main meal!
Of course I do not always have time to make a gourmet meal from scratch and my cereal does come from a box! But if we start to read the labels on our food, and if we are cognisant of the ingredients on those labels, that’s already a good first step in cleaner, better eating! My golden rule is the more ingredients on a label and the more unpronounceable and unfamiliar those ingredients are, the more processed, and in all probability, genetically modified the food is. When shopping for food already prepared for me, again like my box of cereal, I tend to shop for cereals with a low glycemic index, meaning foods which are low in sugar! The same goes for juice drinks - check, check, check the label - supposed healthy juice drinks are the worst offenders for a high glycemic index!
When it comes to raw meats and fish, I stick to wild caught fish - as opposed to farmed fish - and similarly opt for the meats that have been produced by animals on grass fed diets (rather than diets pumped up by hormones). Sadly shopping organic is always more pricey and not everyone can justify the switch, however if the supermarket has any special deals (Sunday nights are fantastic for good quality discounted food) I’ll try and opt for organic fruit and veg! Buying food in this way means you can be sure your raw foods have not been mass produced on artificial fertilisers and additives! Yuck!
On these days when I have eaten well, I typically see a boost in my productivity, energy levels and overall mood! I feel good about myself and sustained cleaner eating will over time see better skin, better hair and a less bloated body!