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Fuelling your mental health

Working with Melbourne Storm as their sports dietitians during the 2021 season and beyond, Fuel Your Life has ensured the nutrition is on point for players during this time to support their performance and mental health.

Players have had to navigate the additional stress of the bubble, changed match dates and locations and ultimately deal with additional stress these past two seasons.

Aside from nutrition strategies to fuel performance on the field, FYL dietitians have ensured all players are supported from a nutrition standpoint to ensure they are fuelling their bodies and their minds with the right types of foods to assist with maintaining optimum mental health, which ultimately has enabled them to continue to perform at their peak.

Mental health affects the way we think, act and feel and determines how we handle stress.

Amidst the chaos of COVID-19, it has never been more important to focus on ways to improve our mental health to ensure we are performing at our best.

What you may not know is that nutrition plays an integral role in mental health and performance with many foods having a positive or negative impact on our mood and our ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Supporting mental health through nutrition is often overlooked and that's why the dietitian team at Fuel Your Life have created the Nutrition to Fuel Your Mental Health online program to help educate people online as we would with people face to face.

With many of us around the country subjected to lockdowns and uncertainty, the ability to follow along from the comfort of your own home at your own pace makes it a much more approachable step to take control of your own mental health.

There is a wealth of information and actionable tips that our dietitians can provide to support you in improving and protecting your mental health and key nutrients and dietary patterns that are known to support improvements in your mood.

Here are some tips to get you started:

PROTECT YOUR GUT

Did you know your gut and your brain are in close communication? They send messages to each other in both directions, so it makes sense to look after your gut to look after your mind. Our gut is responsible for the production of up to 90% of our serotonin (a hormone that boosts our mood) and one of the best ways to look after our gut microbiome is to increase the overall variety of plant-based foods in your diet.

Try the following

  • Try a new fruit or vegetable every week (both fresh and frozen are just nutritious)
  • Incorporate more wholegrains into your diet. Instead of sticking to the usual white rice and pasta, try serving your stir-fry over quinoa or soba noodles this week or tossing pearl barley into your next batch of soup.
  • Replace half the mince in recipes with tinned brown lentils. You will save $ but also increase your intake of plant-based protein and fibre for a healthy gut. Bolognese and tacos are perfect for this.
  • EAT MORE SEAFOOD AND LESS RED MEAT

One of the most well-researched dietary patterns known to show positive improvements in mood and mental health is the Mediterranean Diet, which advocates for less red meat and more fish and seafood. Try the following:

  • Grill a piece of barramundi on the BBQ instead of steak.
  • Flake hot smoked salmon through your next salad at lunchtime.
  • Swap a Bolognese for a seafood marinara.

GO FOR COLOUR

Antioxidants help protect our brain and can assist with mitigating some of the chronic inflammation often associated with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. We all know we need to eat our fruit and veg every day, but did you know some types are higher in antioxidant content than others?

Citrus fruits and dark purple fruit and veg (e.g. berries, plums, purple cabbage, beetroot) are particularly high in a certain type of antioxidant shown to benefit our mood, called flavonoids.

This is also good news for those who love tea/coffee, cocoa and red wine, as these beverages and foods are also excellent sources of flavonoids. Try the following:

  • Replace the banana in your smoothie or on your cereal with a handful of blueberries a few times per week.
  • Add citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit are all excellent choices) to your water bottle to make infused water.
  • Stick to 1-2 cups of coffee per day and replace extra cups with green tea.
  • Fuel Your Life is an award-winning nationwide company with dietitians available to clients in all areas of the country.

For more tips, be sure to check out our Instagram page @fuelyourlifeaus, or to find your closest Fuel Your Life dietitian get in touch with our team today via our website www.fuelyourlife.com.au.