From a young age, we are taught that eating well helps us look and feel our physical best.
What we are not always told is that good nutrition significantly affects our mental health, too.
A healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert.
It can also improve concentration and attention span.
Cookbook author Chantal Lascaris shares below six helpful (and admittedly, delicious) suggestions to keep in mind when it comes to eating your way to improve mental and physical well-being.
Eat your vegetables – raw
From the staples lettuce and spinach to chopped carrots and cucumber, raw vegetables are packed with fibre and plant compounds that offer an array of benefits for your health.
You don’t just need to take the salad queen’s words for it – a study of 422 young adults found that eating raw vegetables was associated with good mental health and mood.
While you may not have previously thought to include nuts and seeds in your salads, options like pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and peanuts, all make for highly nutritious additions!
A word of caution, however, is to look for the raw or dry-roasted varieties to ensure you aren’t crunching on something that’s loaded with added salt, sugar, and other preservatives.
A protein fix
Eating salads doesn’t mean that you need to cut chicken, fish, or meat from your diet.
Several studies have shown a direct link between meat consumption and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Right as grain
Adding whole grains, such as cooked brown rice, quinoa, and barley, to your salads brings a new texture to the dish, with a variety of new flavours as well.
Available at most grocery stores, they’re a good source of fibre and protein, helping you to feel full and satisfied for longer.
A fruitful outcome
Even though most people tend to think of salads as a combination of vegetables, fresh fruit can be added as a different and delicious topping – with added health benefits!
The nutrients found in both fruit and vegetables can have a positive impact on our brain chemistry, which in turn positively influences our mood, memory, and cognitive abilities.
A diet that’s high in these things also tends to reduce the risk of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder – making regular salads as good for you, as they are to eat!
Herbs and more herbs
You’re likely no stranger to using herbs to add flavour or fragrance to a dish.
And doing so with your salads brings its own benefits.
Fresh herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, parsley, sage, and coriander, bring unique flavours to any salad, as well as some interesting health effects.
Research has shown, for example, that a compound in rosemary and sage may have anticancer properties, while cilantro may help to fight inflammation.