If you've been relying on fast food for lunch or snacking on candy throughout the day, there is no time like the present to overhaul your eating patterns.
Though we may try, our busy lives mean it's not always easy to abide by a balanced diet.
If you've been relying on fast food for lunch or snacking on candy throughout the day, there is no time like the present to overhaul your eating patterns. Read on for top tips from Lorraine Perretta and Olga Preston, registered nutritional therapy practitioners at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition's Brain Bio Centre.
Eat the rainbow
Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and wholegrains, which provide fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, supports general health and wellbeing.
"Aim for around 10 portions of vegetables and fruit per day, with particular emphasis on the veggies," said Lorraine. "I recommend adding chopped or grated vegetables to curries, stews, soups, omelettes and tomato sauce pasta dishes, snacking on crudités such as carrot sticks and peppers with hummus, and adding fruit or grated apple to muesli."
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SMASH it with omegas
Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of omega-6 fatty acids (found in seed oils, such as sunflower oil, and many processed foods) have been associated with poorer mental health outcomes.
"One of the best ways to increase omega-3s is by eating oily fish with the acronym SMASH, which stands for: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. For vegans, flaxseeds, linseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and/or supplementation are recommended. Cold-pressed olive oil and avocados are also good sources of healthy fats," noted Olga.
Include Vitamin B12
The B vitamins are essential for supporting mental wellbeing, especially B6, B12 and folic acid.
"Because animal products are the main source of vitamin B12 (ie meat, fish, dairy and eggs), vegans are at particular risk of deficiency. But the elderly are also susceptible due to a natural decline in stomach acid, which is needed for Vitamin B12 absorption," commented Lorraine. "For those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, take a supplement and/or eat fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and yeast spread."
Boost Vitamin D
The role of Vitamin D in supporting the immune system is well documented.
"Although sunlight is the best source, it isn't always available – so opt for dietary sources such as those SMASH fish options, tofu, egg yolks and some fortified foods like fortified mushrooms (check label), yoghurts, nut milks, and cereals," explained Olga.
"The NHS recommends that everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should supplement with 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily during the winter."
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Magnesium is an important 'feel good' mineral, which helps to support a healthy sleep/wake cycle and to regulate mood.
"Good sources include dark, green leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds, particularly sesame, sunflower and pumpkin. An ideal intake is around 500mg per day, which is almost double what most people achieve," added Lorraine.