What we decide to eat doesn’t just affect our physical health — it also affects our mental health. The relationship between food and mental health is complex and deals with the relationship between physiology and psychology. There is a lot we don’t know about this connection, but many studies have been conducted that demonstrate a positive relationship between certain eating habits and mental health. Maintaining positive mental health is critical for students as they daily undergo much stress around academic achievements, but also social pressure and expectations at home. By developing a healthy diet plan, children can better deal with daily stress. That said, mental health cannot be treated solely through diet; it is one factor of many and if your child is experiencing troubles with mental health, seeing a professional is the first step.
The gastrointestinal tract and brain are closely linked. The GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that influence the development of neurotransmitters. This is why it is sometimes called the ‘second brain’ of the body. It makes sense then that the food we consume affects our mental function. Foods high in sugar can cause mild inflammation that hampers production. When your bacteria production is sub-optimal, it may affect your emotions. An example is the ‘sugar crash’ that is characterised by feelings of lethargy, sadness and anxiety after consuming large amounts of sugar.
A healthy diet is the best way to encourage strong bacteria production in the GI tract. This consistent production sets you up for improved focus, fewer artificial mood fluctuations, and better physical health. Many of these behaviours are linked with positive mental health: strong focus can lead to a sense of accomplishment when tasks are completed, and good physical health means you can perform daily tasks and exercise which is also beneficial for mental health.
A healthy diet won’t ‘fix’ mental health problems, but it can set you and your child up to feel healthy and focused which is a good start.
Minimally Processed foods make you feel fuller for longer, which decreases the need to have unhealthy snacks. Fresh vegetables, nuts, and grains are good examples of whole foods that are good for your gut and brain.
Antioxidants fight inflammation which can make it easier for your GI tract to produce the important bacteria that affects neurotransmitters. Berries, leafy greens, salmon and black chia seeds all are plentiful in antioxidants.
You may know VItamin D as the nutrient you receive from sunlight, but many foods are also rich in this vitamin. Mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D, which helps with the production of serotonin. If you don’t like mushrooms, consider a supplement or make sure to spend some time outside every day.
These foods — sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh— are all rich in probiotics and contain live bacteria that are very good for your gut health and microflora. These foods can be high in sodium so consider making your own to control the salt content or consuming in moderation.
You can implement a healthy diet slowly to ensure each new habit sticks. Start by purchasing healthier snacks if that’s a problem, or prepare meals in advance if you’re time-poor. Try to make healthy eating work for you and your child’s preferences and lifestyle, otherwise you will go back to the bad habits that used to work.
To be effective, a healthy diet should be complemented by a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your child spends some time doing physical activity every day, has hobbies they enjoy, and feels loved at home and in their friend group.
A healthy diet can increase focus which can make your child feel more satisfied with their work at school and home. To take advantage of this, consider employing a private tuition teacher for your child. At FamilyTutor private tuition in Singapore, our tutors develop lesson plans catered to your child’s learning goals and habits. We take a holistic approach which looks at how healthy diet plans and mental health affect learning outcomes. Fill out our ‘request a tutor’ form to match your child with the perfect teacher!
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