Monday, 10 March 2014

Nutrition and Mental Health

Food plays a very important role in our day-to-day living. Food gives us energy and helps us maintain various essential physiological processes. Basically, it keeps us alive! 

However, when we talk about food giving us this range of benefits, we are talking about healthy food. By healthy food, we mean nutritious food that has been prepared at home and with carefully-selected nutritious produce. 

Eating healthy home cooked meals helps us maintain our bodies in good health. However, nutrition is not only related to the role it has to play with our physical health – it is also an essential component of maintaining our mental health.

Much of nutrition research surrounding mental health has been mainly been focused around exploring the role of individual nutritional components such as Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 Fatty acids in order to manage illness. Within this research, there have been positive results correlating good nutrition and the prevention of mental health illness (Compass Group, 2014). But what role does nutrition have on people already living with mental health concerns?

Firstly, eating a nutritious meal is not only about focusing on the food it itself. Yes, we should be thinking about eating a varied diet that includes eating our five-a-day, cutting our levels of saturated fat and consuming less salt.

But we should also be thinking about how important it is to share meals with people we care about and also about sharing meals with people we have just met. Preparing and eating food is also a social affair that has an immense impact on our social lives and our mental health.

There is just something about food that creates an amazing catalyst for us to create new relationships and nurture existing ones. However, for people living with mental health issues, doing this might be more of a challenge due to social, economic and environmental factors. But, it does not mean we must not do anything about it!

The Mini Cooking Club has been working with adults with mental health concerns for 3 years. We run 6-week courses where people can learn how to prepare healthy balanced meals, how to cook on a budget and general nutritional information.

We run our sessions at the Coplestone centre, which is a safe and conducive learning environment for people to meet new friends and be social. If you would like to volunteer with us in this project or would like to join a session have a look at our website:

If you would like to know more about what healthy swaps you can make The Mental Health Foundation has some great resources. 

                                     By Jancy Hensen

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