Healthy eating, healthy Mind

Westmeath Wellness week starts on October 4 and focuses on positive steps you can take to look after your mental health.

You know that feeling when you are hungry: you get narky and irritable, your mood often is low and it is hard to concentrate. Those feelings result from the fact that your brain is particularly sensitive to food. So looking at what you eat and the ways you eat can have an impact on your mental wellbeing.

How do you cope when your nerves are frayed and you’re feeling stressed? Some people may reach for comfort foods like chocolate, sweets, and a good old fry. These choices tend to make you feel good for a little while, but then comes the sugar slump. So in order to avoid the roller coaster of moods and fortify yourself long term here are a few suggestions.

Switch to Low GI: This sounds very technical, however, what this means is to go for high fibre versions of foods. The energy will be released slowly into your body, keeping your blood glucose level on a more even keel and, more importantly, leaving you feeling less anxious, irritable, and edgy. Low GI foods include granary type breads, wholegrain, fruits, and vegetables.

Choose the rainbow of fruits: choose fresh fruits which are packed with vitamin C and the B vitamins. Low levels of these vitamins have been linked to depressive moods. Eating a variety of these fruits fortifies your immune system, making you ready for anything.

Keep well hydrated: Even a small amount of dehydration can lead to a drop in your mood. Concentration drops and you get more irritable. Make sure to have at least eight to 10 cups of fluid per day (approx 2 litres ). Fluids can be any type of liquids (apart from alcohol ), but beware of caffeine-rich drinks such as coffee, tea, and colas. Although they may make you feel alert, too much makes you feel jittery.

Keep active: I know this is not food related, but the more active you are the healthier your brain is, making it easier to cope with everything life throws at you. Also, time spent exercising is less time for thinking.

Alcohol: As a depressant, mixed with stress, alcohol is not a great combination. The best advice is (if you are over 18 ) to stick within the limit. The recommended limits are no more than 17 units per week for men and 11 units per week for women. Remembering that is a limit rather than a target, and these units should be spread over the week, not all saved up for one or two nights.

For more information regarding positive mental health watch out for the Athlone Mental Health group information centre in Athlone Towncentre.

For more information on diet and nutrition, contact Maria at The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster, by telephone on (044 ) 9395518. Alternatively, email [email protected]

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