Diet and wellbeing
Food and your mental wellbeing live on a two-way street. Your diet can affect your mood and your mood can equally affect your food choices. Research studies have found that people who eat too much unhealthy junk foods are at higher risk of depression. More recent research has found that mental health outlook is improved when people swap to a healthier dietary pattern high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil.
Diet and physical health
Wellbeing also applies to your physical health and here again, a healthy diet aligned with dietary guidelines is linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Eating well also fuels the body to meet the demands of each day.
What is a balanced diet?
Eating a varied, well-balanced diet means eating a variety of foods from each of the food groups daily. It is also important to choose a variety of foods from within each food group because different foods provide different types and amounts of key nutrients. A balanced diet will include a range of foods from these 5 core areas:
- Grain (cereal) foods
- Vegetables and legumes (beans)
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives if you are a vegetarian.
What to do
There is no single ‘superfood’ that can give you the key to good health and wellbeing. Instead, think more about ‘super diets’ that include a range of healthy foods and positive lifestyle habits. Here are some tips to help you.
- Eat a wide variety of wholesome, nutritious foods including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
- Colour is nature’s guide to food variety, especially for fruit and vegetables. The more natural colours in the foods you eat the more nutrient variety you are getting.
- Make healthy foods swaps such as swapping white bread for wholegrain bread and the frying pan for the grill.
- Think fish. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring are good for your mental health.
- Choose water, tea, milk and coffee over fruit juices and soft drink.
Eating well can be more of a challenge if you are new to living out of home, especially if you now need to take responsibility for shopping and cooking your own meals. Here are some tips to be organised.
- Plan your meals for the full week ahead and then make your shopping list so you have everything you need on hand.
- Shop and cook with a friend who is more experienced in the kitchen than you.
- Vary your meals. You will get bored and lose motivation if you don’t experiment with different ingredients and recipes. The internet is a great resource to find interesting and easy recipes and cooking tips.
- Cook extra and freeze the leftovers so you always have a convenient meal on hand.
- Shop at the local markets late for discounted fruit, vegetable and meat bargains.
- One-pot dishes where you throw everything in together save energy, time, money and washing up.
If you have concerns about your diet and its impact on your wellbeing, it can be helpful to speak with a health professional. Book an appointment with the Deakin Medical Centre.
More help and advice
Deakin’s Food and Mood Centre provide several resources, including recipes and resources on how food can impact your mood.
To learn more about the kinds of health foods you should be eating, visit the Australian Dietary Guidelines.