MENTAL HEALTH AND NUTRITION
By Lily Mirfin
Nutrition and the effect it can have on our overall physical health is well-known. If we eat poorly, then we don’t feel our best and typically don’t look our best either. But the connection between what we consume and our mental health isn’t really discussed. Discussing our mental health is not anywhere normal as it should be – because of this, we usually don’t know what to do if we ever feel ourselves falling into being in a bad place mentally. Drinking alcohol, eating poorly, and not looking after ourselves is bound to negatively affect our mental health. When you’re a busy student, you typically can’t be bothered cooking. So, you end up reaching for the most convenient option. Either two-minute noodles, a processed pasta dish or maybe if you’re splashing out, you’ll go for a Domino’s pizza.
We have an expert in the field of nutrition and mental health impacts here at UC, Professor Julia Rucklidge. Julia gave a TEDxChristchurch talk in 2014 on this subject, and I highly recommend you give this a watch. Julia points out that some of the main issues that humans experience whilst starving are largely psychological. Like increased anxiety, irritability, and even self-harm. So, if not eating causes psychological symptoms, then eating food laden with artificial additives must affect us. Now I know students aren’t the only people who eat poorly, but we seem to do some damage in the three-to-five years we spend studying. If you’re sick of feeling run down and tired, maybe try and shake things up and improve your diet. It’s one of the easiest and safest things you can do to try and improve your mental health. Always, always consult a healthcare professional before making any diet or lifestyle changes or if you’re struggling with your mental health.
These are some of the easiest changes for students to make in order to eat healthier:
- Do an actual grocery shop. Don’t just pop in when you need more milk or Mi Goreng. Make a list and stick with it to make sure you have full meals.
- Work more whole grains into your diet. Avoid the white bread and rice. Swap it for brown rice, quinoa or a wholegrain couscous. Try and find an affordable brown bread or just check what’s in the food you’re eating.
- Meal prep. There are plenty of recipes available online that keep well in the fridge. Having some fast meals on hand will make all the difference in a busy week.
- Go to smaller independent shops for fruits and vegetables. These are often cheaper than supermarket prices for fruits and vegetables. The stock is often more limited as they typically sell only what’s in season as opposed to what has been imported.
A good general rule is to simply read the label on any pre-packaged food item. If you don’t know what something is on the label, then eating it is probably best to avoid it. Nutrition is not a one size fits all model. We all have different bodies that behave in very different ways. Because of this, before making any major changes to your diet and lifestyle, it is important that you consult a medical professional.
We’re all human. We are going to eat takeaways every now and then, and most of us will have a drink occasionally. Just try not to overdo it. Taking care of yourself includes not being too hard on yourself. What we consume matters, and a lot of us don’t realise this. Always reach out if you need help; please reach out to a medical professional. Don’t make any drastic changes without doing this first, or you may end up doing more harm than good.