Mental Wellbeing and Diet

By Dr Sivuyile Madikana (Herbalife NAB Southern Africa)

In this Men’s Health Awareness month, I thought it important to share around the often neglected men’s health topics. It’s been noted in literature that men often seek healthcare services less than women, leading to poor health outcomes and life expectancy. When it comes to men’s mental healthcare, they are even less likely to seek psychological therapies, with only 36% of psychological referrals in some healthcare systems being for men.  Some of the reasons include the stigma around mental health and a lack of education and awareness around the topic and its symptoms. The link between mental health and diet is a growing field being researched with evidence leading towards maintaining a good diet and good mental well-being.

It is no secret that eating well a balanced diet full of vegetables and nutrients can improve your sense of well-being and mood. As our brains are constantly working, whether awake or asleep they require a constant fuel supply in the form of nutritious food intake which ultimately affects brain function and mood. Diets that are high in sugars are said to not be good for the brain, they further affect the body’s regulation of insulin and promote inflammation and oxidative stress. There have been studies that compared what are considered traditional diets such as Mediterranean and Japanese diets with a Western diet. These showed a 25% - 35% lower risk of depression in those who maintained a traditional diet.

So, what can one do to support their brain’s optimal function and well-being? Here are six tips to get us going;

1. Protein, our diet should be made up of at least 30% protein, which should be included in every meal we consume. Protein contains an amino acid that your brain uses to
help regulate your mood.

2. Drinking enough water, which will allow you to keep hydrated. Mild dehydration can affect your mood and ability to keep concentration levels up.

3. Eating regularly can help maintain your blood sugar levels, keeping you energised and less tired

4. Include healthy fats in your diet. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats can be found in walnuts, salmon, tuna, avocados, and many other Mediterranean food sources. They also lower bad cholesterol, while promoting the increase of “good” HDL cholesterol.

5. Include more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. They contain the
vitamins and minerals your brain and body need to stay well.

6. Look after your gut health, good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs, but also affect the degree of inflammation throughout the body, as well as your mood and energy level. Healthy food for your gut includes fruit, vegetables, beans, and probiotics.

The right nutrients through a well-balanced diet play a pivotal role not only in our mental
wellbeing but overall health.