Bristol charity Milestones Trust will be giving away healthy mood food tasters to workers in Bristol’s Temple Quarter next week (Thursday 17 May) to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May 2018).
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that good nutrition is essential to good mental health and that a number of psychological conditions can be influenced by diet.
Teaming up with Bristol’s not-for-profit cookery school Square Food Foundation, staff from Milestones Trust will give away tasters designed to improve mood, boost energy and help people think more clearly. They will also hand out cards outlining five top tips for improving your diet along with your five fruit and veg a day.
The Bristol-based charity, which supports people with mental health needs and learning disabilities, is a leader in the field of nutrition and mental health. The charity is committed to improving food standards in care by delivering fresh, healthy and locally sourced food where possible in all their residential services.
Glen, who lives in supported living accommodation in Knowle and is supported by Milestones Trust, says changes he’s made to his diet, with the help of his support worker, have helped him turn his life around. Glen lives with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which was made considerably worse following bereavement and a relationship breakdown.
He said: “I was in a really bad way to be honest. And because of my condition I can find preparing food incredibly difficult, so I was turning to junk food and ready meals just because that was the easiest option. With Mark’s help I’ve discovered lots of fresh and healthy alternatives and cut out loads of the bad stuff. Combined with regular exercise this has made a huge difference to my life.
“Along with exercise, eating well makes me feel so much better. My medication can make me feel doped up at times, but running and healthy food really helps to combat that, giving me my energy back and basically making me feel alive again.”
Glen will be running three marathons over the summer. The 55-year-old had a long history of self-harming but says that now he has goals to aim for thanks to his running, supported by a healthy diet, he hasn’t self-harmed for over two years.
Glen’s support worker Mark Williams has recently studied nutrition and its impact on mental health but said even he didn’t realise how transformational diet and exercise could be until he worked with Glen.
Mark added: “It’s been really inspiring to see Glen’s determination to get his life back on track. Running has given him a whole new challenge and focus and he’s realised that in order to do the kind of distances he’s doing he has to eat well. I’ve seen an incredible change in Glen since he took steps to improve his diet. He’s much more in control of his life and state of mind, he’s regained his sense of self-worth and is able to make plans for his future in a way he hadn’t been able to for years.”
Milestones Trust and Square Food’s stall will be at Temple Quay’s weekly street food market in The Square, Temple Quay between 12 and 2pm on Thursday 17 May.
Barny Haughton, founder of Square Food Foundation, said:
“We’re delighted to team up with Milestones Trust for this event in Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the theme is stress – so we hope a little mood food boost for the hard workers of Temple Quay will give them something tasty and energising, alongside some food for thought in terms of the link between nutrition and good mental health.”
Taster portions of roast root vegetable curry and flapjacks will be given away along with recipe cards and the following five tips on diet and mental health:
1. Cut back on junk food
People who regularly eat high-fat foods, processed meals and sugary snacks are almost two-thirds more likely to suffer from depression than those who choose fruit, vegetables and fish, according to recent research from University College London.
So aiming for more home-cooked meals over takeaways or ready meals, and making sure you’re getting your five-a-day can have a big impact on your mood.
2. Eat the right carbs
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is all about tryptophan, the amino acid they contain. As more tryptophan enters the brain, serotonin levels increase and mood tends to improve, which is why healthy carbs are an important part of a good mood diet.
Research has suggested that people following low-carb, high-protein diets can become prone to developing depression.
White carbs can spike blood sugar levels so swapping to wholegrain carbs such as granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice, will provide enough tryptophan, but also avoid blood sugar crashes and mood dips.
3. Eat good fats
Your brain needs fatty oils – especially omega-3s and 6s – to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones. Oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado are all great sources of healthy, mood-boosting fats.
4. Avoid too much sugar
It can cause rapid blood sugar rise, followed by a steep dip that can lower mood. This means avoiding biscuits, cakes, chocolate and fizzy drinks, but also being careful not to overdo fruit juice which is packed with concentrated amounts of fruit sugar.
5. Eat little and often
Smaller, regular meals help keep your blood sugar steady which can ward off dips in energy and mood. A study by the University of Leicester found that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer with depression, which they believe could be down to the unstable blood sugar levels that go hand-in-hand with the disease.