In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May 2022), Rose Legge, registered nutritional therapist for Vitaminology shares her top tips on how to boost your mental health in the workplace via nutrition.
Mental Health Red Flags
Symptoms of general anxiety can include feeling on edge, a sense of dread or impending doom, restlessness, difficulty concentrating and irritability. Anxiety may show up in the body as shortness of breath, fatigue, dry mouth, stomach ache, headache, insomnia, achy muscles and heart palpitations.
Symptoms of stress can be similar, but may also include racing thoughts, difficulty switching off, anxiety, low mood, feeling overburdened and tearful. Like anxiety, these symptoms may impact on sleep, work, relationships, sex, energy levels, diet and lifestyle habits.
However, by making dietary adjustments, it is possible to help to alleviate some of these symptoms.
5 Key Nutrients
If you’re already at the point of exhaustion, it may feel difficult to find the energy to make dietary changes. Consider taking a multi vitamin and mineral to give your body a helping hand, or alternatively, try a combination of supplements that include vitamin B-complex, magnesium and vitamin C. However, these should only be taken in the short-term whilst you focus on making dietary and lifestyle changes.
Try increasing your intake of foods rich in these three nutrients:
Vitamin B5 helps to convert carbohydrates into glucose, which in turn, produces energy. Good news if you are at a low ebb! Natural source of Vitamin B5 include mushrooms, salmon, avocado, chicken, beef liver, sunflower seeds, whole milk, sweet potatoes and more.
Magnesium is thought to help anxiety and mood, as well as helping to promote natural sleep. Incorporate magnesium into your diet through dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans such as butter beans and black beans, brown rice, cacao, avocados and bananas.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient for health because it boost the immune system and is also an antioxidant. Increase your intake by incorporating bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, lemons, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, blackcurrant, Brussel sprouts and potato skin into your diet.
Support a healthy gut microbiome
The gut and brain communicate with each via complex pathways, known as the gut-brain axis. If the gut is inflamed or has an imbalance this can have an impact on the brain and contribute to anxiety. To help support the gut microbiome ensure to include fibre in your diet.
Beneficial microbes require fibre to thrive and multiply and it’s best to aim for 30g of fibre daily. Gut microbes are particularly fond of onions, leeks, artichokes, bananas, oats, asparagus, garlic, berries and cacao.
Other ways to support your gut microbiome are by consuming fermented products such as yoghurt and kombucha as well as probiotics.
Healthy fats such as omega-3 essential fatty acid are good for brain health and can be found in oily fish. Simply remember the acronym SMASH (salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardines and herring) and ensure you are eating at least one portion of oily fish per week. Other sources include olive oil, olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados and coconut oil.
Finally, to keep anxiety at bay remember to avoid highly processed and sugary foods and incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Try yoga which incorporates deep breathing and long exhalation to help.