Changing The African Food Narrative

5 WAYS FOODS CAN IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Before the advent of civilization, history and literature record how some cultures -like the Asian and African culture- have resorted to using food to heal ailments. Indeed, though some of these arts have been lost to civilization, research work and modern science keeps rediscovering and finding out ways to utilize these foods and see which ones can be used to combat modern diseases. Some of these researches have also been able to pinpoint ways food can be used to prevent and even reverse mental health illnesses.

In 2013, the founder of The Mental Health Foundation, Dr Emmanuel Owoyemi, estimated the number of Nigerians suffering from one form of mental illness or the other at an alarming 64 million. Several people are yet to realize and acknowledge the fact that they might be suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, ADHS, and several others. There are however, habits we can adopt to reverse or prevent the occurrence of mental health illnesses. Here are five ways you might be putting you mental health at risk through things you eat.

  1. WESTERN DIETS: According to research, Western diets increase the risk of depression. Western diets involve more salt, dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, cream) processed sugars and artificially sweetened foods, with minimal intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, and whole grains. With the new food fair culture that has recently hit Nigeria, how much thought are we giving to staying off western diets? Most of these things contain saturated and trans fat which increase your risk of Alzheimer’s!  The reverse is also the case. The more you eat unprocessed or more natural diets, the lower your risk of depression. Western diets have also been attributed with causing ailments like Alzheimer’s, heart disease and colon cancer.
  2. MICRO-NUTRIENTS: Optimizing nutrition is another way to treat mental illnesses. Micronutrients – minerals and vitamins- in good doses are good for the health. Micronutrients have been credited with treating psychiatric disorders and other mental health conditions like ADHD. As opposed to pills, micro-nutrients as a means of treating mental health illnesses have been known to provide longer lasting effects than prescription pills. In Nigeria too, there are now farmers growing bio-fortified crops to provide more essential micro-nutrients to less privileged populations.
  3. HEALTHY EATING: Food prices should never dictate how much access you have to healthy foods. Myths like “fruits are for rich people” are just that – myths. If you substituted your beer and sugary drinks for fruits, you’d have done yourself a bit of good. The belly and the brain are physically and biochemically connected, so feed yourself ‘brain foods’. Reduce intake of saturated fats and transfats (types found in pastries). Do more of fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables.
  4. ANTIOXIDANTS: Foods rich in antioxidants are excellent for brain health. They fight free radicals caused by oxidization that can be damaging to the brain. They also aid improve cognitive skills and slow brain aging. Eat more of food and spices that contain antioxidants such as green tea, berries, grapes, cloves, parsley, cocoa etc Colourful foods also pack nutrients, however red fruits contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in foods like grapes, tomatoes, watermelons.
  5. MUCH ADO ABOUT KETO DIETS? We think not! Publications suggesting Keto diets help to prevent the occurrence or reversal of Alzheimer’s have hit the market. One of such is Dale Bredesen’s ‘The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline’. With loads of raving reviews and feedback, alongside other materials available on the cure and prevention of Alzheimer’s, it is clear to see that there is more to eating right than fitfam.

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