The Healthy Ireland Survey of 2018 reported that 34% of the residents of Ireland ate unhealthy foods at least once a day. Food with zero nutritional content, such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, pastries, salty snacks, and takeaways.
It’s no wonder that Ireland has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe.
We know that poor food choices can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But adding an unhealthy diet to a sedentary lifestyle doubles your risk of developing any or all of the above. You’re also putting yourself at greater risk of colon cancer, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
If that isn’t frightening enough - did you know your mental wellbeing is also at risk?
There is no universal definition for ‘mental wellbeing’, as it has various meanings for different people, groups and cultures. It can be characterised as an ability to realise our own potential, our ability to handle everyday stresses, work productively and how we contribute to our community or society as a whole.
If we find we are unable to handle the variety of pressures life throws our way, we can react negatively, in the form of anxiety and/or depression.
Depression, anxiety and sleep disorders are currently at their highest recorded levels in countries such as the UK, the US, India and China. Of course there are other factors contributing to these mental disorders which include stress, financial issues and other social aspects.
Why Nutrition Plays an Important Role
Studies have shown that people who follow an unhealthy diet (junk food and ready meals) report higher levels of mental health issues.
Researchers have also found a direct link between an unhealthy diet and depression, anxiety, stress and sleep disorders.
Unhealthy diets are making us fatter, more depressed and sicker than ever before. In fact, more than 20% of deaths worldwide, can be attributed to poor nutrition.
What to Eat?
Doctors have been advising us for decades to eat a balanced diet and ‘everything in moderation’. However, there are some foods in particular that provide us with extra nutritional benefits to ensure strong brain and heart health.
Nuts, pulses, seeds and grains are great sources of iron and protein, they include almonds, walnuts, chickpeas, kidney beans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and quinoa.
Greens, fruits, and berries try avocados, bananas, broccoli, kale and blueberries to start with.
Fish, lean meat, and eggs include foods rich in the following:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Our bodies can’t produce Omega-3, so we need to eat them or take them as supplements. A ‘good’ type of fat, they can help reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. You can find Omega-3 fatty acids in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and salmon.
Vitamins D, B3, B12 - Vitamin deficiency is one of the major causes of depression.
Vitamin D helps to promote bone growth and healthy teeth. It is also beneficial in protecting us against conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin B3 helps to lower cholesterol, relieve arthritis and enhance brain function.
Vitamin B12 assists by keeping our nerve and blood cells healthy. It can also help to prevent anemia which makes us feel weak and tired.
Make sure you include fish, meat, dairy products, fatty fish and eggs in your diet.
Superfoods - Quite new to the list are those foods which have high nutritional density, yet are low in calories. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, superfoods include green tea, goji / acai / blueberries, leafy greens, cacao and red wine. You’ll even find some superfoods in powdered form - spirulina, turmeric and wheatgrass - a quick and easy addition to a green smoothie.
Movement is the Key
Let’s not forget that healthy eating habits and exercise go hand-in-hand.
Researchers have found that sitting for more than 8 hours a day poses similar risks as those faced by heavy smokers.
Not only does exercise give you an amazing feeling of elation, thanks to endorphins (the ‘feel good’ hormone), but we have evidence to prove that it is an essential part of maintaining good mental health as well. As a matter of fact, it is becoming common practice to use exercise to treat chronic mental illnesses such as depression, dementia and anxiety, rather than resort to heavy medications.
Research from Harvard Medical School has shown that exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills. It helps grow new blood vessels and improve the survival of new brain cells. Not to mention improvements to sleep habits and mood.
Exercise not only gives you an amazing sense of wellbeing, but it helps trim the waistline, reduces stress and depression, and can even improve your sex life!
How Much Exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends we fit in a minimum of:
● 50 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (a brisk walk, swimming, jogging) 3 days a week.
● 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (an aerobic class, spinning, running) 3 days a week.
● A combination of both, spread throughout the week (6 days)
● Adding moderate-to-high-intensity muscle-strengthening exercises (e.g. resistance or weights) at least 2 days per week.
● Sit less and move more. Park your car a little further away from the office. Get off a stop early from the train or the bus. Take the stairs.
● Increase the amount of exercise and the intensity gradually, over time.
Both your physical wellbeing and the food you eat play a huge role in your overall mental wellness. If you feel your mental wellbeing is suffering for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to speak up. The first, and most difficult step is to have an awareness of the problem. You’re here - so congratulations on taking that step!
Now, you need to find the proper communication channels to express yourself and be heard.
Look no further! At Titan Wellness, we hear you. If you’re ready to improve your mental and physical wellbeing but don’t know where to start - we can help you.
We improve awareness through communication in the form of our engaging and informative Nutrition, Physical Wellness and Mental Wellbeing Workshops.
We will show you how to put yourself first and finally take charge of your health. You deserve it!
Call us today or download our brochure to get started. Workplace wellness is only one click away.