“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates
For those of us that lead busy lifestyles, food is just that thing we begrudgingly shove into our mouths to stop our bellies from making noises in meetings. But studies have increasingly shown that what we eat can directly affect our overall well-being.
In Rachel Kelly’s book, The Happy Kitchen, she talks about how she overcame depression not only by eating the right food, but by changing her relationship to it. Taking the time to enjoy the process of cooking and adopting a more mindful approach to eating, she’s come up with a number of delicious recipes targeting a range of self-care regimens. The recipes range from energy-boosting right through to sleep-inducing.
With so much information on which diets to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. So, to help get you started, Rachel’s come up with the following golden rules:
Eat your vegetables
Something I’m sure we’ve all heard before! There’s been numerous studies outlining the relationship between plant-based diets and their effect on lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer. So it’s really important to try and fill at least half your plate with vegetables at each meal.
Dark leafy greens tend to be the most nutrient-dense; spinach, kale and cabbage containing vast amounts of vitamins A, C, E, and K, which help to reduce inflammation in the brain, lowering the risk of depression.
Cut out sugar and processed food
As well as causing diabetes, too much sugar can make you put on weight as it contains fructose. The body doesn’t know what to do with fructose, so it gets metabolised by the liver and turned into fat. It’s also highly addictive, as it causes dopamine to be released in the reward centre for the brain. So do try and avoid or at least reduce sweets, fizzy drinks and chocolate as much as possible.
Eat for your gut
“Healthy gut, healthy mind”
Often referred to as the “second brain”, the gut is where we store 90% of our serotonin. It’s also one of the first lines of defence against bacteria and viruses. Eating more probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir are a great way to help increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and avoid inflammation.
Increase your good fats
Fat has developed a bit of a reputation over the years, but the brain is actually made up of about 60 per cent fat. Subsequently it’s essential that we get some of it in our diet. There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats (cakes, biscuits, fried foods etc) are generally considered to be bad as they raise our levels of cholesterol, increasing the risk for heart disease. But polyunsaturated fats can actually have the opposite effect, and work to fuel our brains. These include: fatty fish such as sardines, salmon…, avocados, walnuts and healthy oils such as coconut and olive.
Get the right balance of protein
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy provide many important nutrients such as zinc, iron, B vitamins and iodine. It’s important to try and fill at least a quarter of your plate with these good quality proteins. Good proteins to consume include: fish, skinless poultry, lean beef, lentils and beans.
For more information, and to get some recipe ideas, check out The Happy Kitchen by Rachel Kelly. She goes into detail about the benefits of incorporating these principles into your diet and how to do it in the simplest, most time-effective way.
A happy kitchen, a happy mind!