How Does Nutrition Affect Your Self-Care?
Self-care is made up of many parts, from letting go of guilt to mindset work, from habit breaking & reframing to creating new habits, from scheduling ‘self-care’ time to building in daily self-care actions. The highest levels are achieved by taking daily steps in each area, consistently over time. And because it is about a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t have a final goal, rather a continuous review & readjustment.
During this period where our health is under the microscope, understanding the role of nutrition in self-care can help shift you from ‘too exhausted to do anything (including the much needed body mobility & movement’) to being energised and ready to take on the world…
Just not all in one go!
What we eat impacts everything else that we do and how we handle life’s ups and downs. We can do things from a place of energy, clarity & focus, or through tiredness, foggy thinking and being pulled from pillar to post. ‘Choice’ springs to mind.
And whilst I advocate being active as a major player in self-care, eating well is the key to unlocking the energy to participate in those chosen activities. In fact, activity & nutrition affect each other and ultimately, affect your quality of life.
I am currently wrapped up in a nutrition coaching course that I know will help me to connect some dots, creating whole new ways for me to help my clients attain high levels of self-care in all areas of their lives through the food they eat.
The fact is, nutrition affects your self-care in many ways, a few of which include:
Your Stress Levels
Know Your Stress Hormones
- Adrenaline– produced by the adrenal glands after receiving a message from the brain that a stressful situation has presented itself – the initial response
- Norepinephrine– released from the adrenal glands and the brain to arouse, awake, focus
- Cortisol– a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands – kicks in after the other two (and is known for causing food cravings – in women these cravings tend to be strongest for carbohydrates)
Know What Aids Stress Reduction
- Serotonin – a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance (carbohydrates prompt the brain to make more of this)
- Dopamine– helps regulate movement and emotional responses (tyrosine-rich foods help boost dopamine production – ex. fish, eggs, and spirulina)
- A healthy diet– can help counter the impact of stress because it builds a healthy immune system and lowers blood pressure
- Carbohydrates at bedtime– can speed the release of the brain chemical serotonin and help you sleep better
To keep stress off your plate, consider including these in your diet:
- Warm oatmeal – it boosts levels of serotonin calming the brain
- Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C – kerbing levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system
- Calcium – it eases anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS
- One cup of spinach helps you stock back up on magnesium
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Cooked soybeans or a fillet of salmon
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Half an avocado – good source of potassium, good for high blood pressure
Your Sleep Quality
- Poor sleep is likely to increase your food intake – A study carried out by the Mayo Clinic in 2012 found that those individuals who didn’t get enough sleep consumed approximately 549 calories more per day. Although this is only one study, if you think about the role of ‘late night snacking’ when you are unable to sleep, it makes sense. When you are losing sleep, you are likely to feel more tired. If you feel more tired, you will probably want to exercise less and eat more. So, late night snacks might become a habit born out of consistent feelings of tiredness.
- And the types of food you crave are unlikely to be good quality– Chocolate, crisps and all things sweet (loaded with calories & fat) tend to be the foods of choice because they are quick & easy to reach for. Read ‘How sleep deprivation makes us want to eat fat‘
- And poor quality, food equates to poor nourishment– The results of the points above mean you are likely to deprive your body of the food types it needs to repair, recover and function well. This could then add to any existing sleep issues you already have.
- Here are some food tips that might help: ‘Foods that help you sleep’
Your Brain Function
Just like the rest of the body, there are foods we can eat to enhance our brain power. The brain requires some specific things to work well:
- Energy – glucose in your blood to the brain – Wholegrains
- Essential Fatty Acids – only obtained from your diet as the body is unable to make it – Oily Fish (Omega 3 fats)
- Blueberries – who knew? Improves short-term memory loss or delays it
- Protection against free radical damage to cells – the magic ingredient lycopene in Tomatoes
- Zinc – Pumpkin seeds
Some other key sources include certain B vitamins, blackcurrant, broccoli, sage and nuts.
How Do These Foods Help?
- Increases the ability to concentrate and focus (from the steady supply of energy)
- Aids healthy brain function, heart function, joints and general wellbeing
- Protects against the cell damage that can lead to the development of dementia (Alzheimer’s in particular) (Tomatoes)
- Enhances memory & thinking skills (Pumpkin Seeds)
The additional benefits of eating the food types listed above include reduced brain shrinkage, mental agility, enhanced cognitive function, improved brain power and improved memory.
These are not quick fixes. They usually require changing habits of a lifetime and that takes time. However, incremental change is possible and consistently done, brings about transformation and that makes for a healthier happier you. And that is self-care at its best!
To Your Health…
P.S. Let’s Talk Health