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Why eating well is the key to improving your wellbeing

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Clemmy Stopford

May 17, 2020

Whether it’s the stress of running a small business, or the anxiety you might be facing at an accounting firm, there are a lot of things out of your control right now. 

There are some things however around wellbeing that you can take control of today. 

In our recent wellbeing series, we’ve been looking at the importance of sleep, and ways that we can manage our mental health while working from home. 

For this piece, we’ve spoken to clinical nutritionist and Xero employee Natalie Harms to get her views on what we should be eating right now to support our wellbeing. 


A healthy, varied diet

Food is fundamental to our health: it gives our body and mind the energy and materials it needs to nourish itself, heal and grow. A varied diet of real food, including proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from sources like oily fish, seeds, or nuts will provide your body with everything it needs to stay strong and healthy. 

It also helps if the food on your plate looks like a rainbow. Different coloured fruits and vegetables each offer their own vitamins, minerals and health-promoting compounds all vital to our health.  

Support your immune system 

Food supports all of your body’s functions, including your immune system. If you aren’t providing it with everything it needs, it won’t be functioning at its full potential.

Increase your intake of foods containing the nutrients that we know are connected to a healthy immune response. Fruits, particularly citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, strawberries and kiwi are all rich in Vitamin C, which plays a role in mobilising your body’s defences. 

Zinc is another essential nutrient. It’s in meats, eggs, seafood, nuts, and seeds particularly cashews and pumpkin and sesame seeds. Other foods like ginger, garlic, turmeric and some mushrooms also contain compounds that can support your immune system. For instance, shiitake and reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which are linked to a strong immune system.

Food as a stress-buster

It’s easy to feel stressed at a time like this, but put down those crisps!

Stress eating may feel good in the moment, but it doesn’t serve your body in the long term. When we experience stress, our adrenal glands respond by producing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which affect everything from our ability to digest food, the functioning of our immune system, and cognitive functions like memory. Fortunately, a healthy diet can help your body keep these hormones in check. 

Eat whole foods and plenty of fresh vegetables and plant foods while avoiding refined carbohydrates (processed and packaged foods) and sugary foods. 

Limit caffeine and if you drink alcohol, try to cut it down. According to some observational studies you can treat yourself to a small amount of dark chocolate. No food eliminates stress, but data suggests that a few foods can play a role in keeping calm. Fatty fish, rich in both omega-3 and -6, can help your brain regulate neurotransmitters to promote healthy brain function, while selenium-rich Brazil nuts may reduce inflammation associated with stress. Consider treating yourself to a cup of chamomile tea, long considered a relaxing drink, which is rich in flavonoids. 

Feed your body and mind

To truly set yourself up for success, you need to provide your body and mind with the materials it needs to function properly and that means a varied, healthy diet.

By being mindful and listening to your body, you can find what works for you. Exercise, activities, and socialisation are equally important. Don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes with your eating plan. More than anything, do your best to support your body with variety and smart choices so that it can help you. 

Visit our dedicated site for more inspirational stories, webinars and resources to help you navigate through this time.

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