From head to toe — foods to improve your health
By COREY LEBLANC
An apple a day will keep the doctor away and may be the ticket to a stress free life.
A study done by the Ontario Universities and Colleges Health Association (OUCHA) this past year has found that mental health has reached crisis levels in university and college students. Over 65 per cent of us experience anxiety while 13 per cent have contemplated suicide during their academic studies.
The OUCHA study also noted that 88 per cent of students felt exhausted (not due to physical activity) and roughly the same number of students felt overwhelmed or hopeless in the last 12 months prior to the study.
Niagara-based, naturopathic doctor, Benna Lun was supportive of Niagara News’ goal to get to the root of the problem. She says that a healthy lifestyle and a good diet may be the key to controlling your midterm panic attacks.
“Not a lot of people are placing importance on the relationship between diet and mental health,” says Lun.
The OUCHA study revealed that 52 per cent of college and university students are only getting one to two servings of fruits and vegetables per day. While the daily recommended serving is five to six.
“You want to see improvement in your overall health and that means eating nutritionally better,” says Lun.
Lun says that students generally replace important foods with useless carbs that come from processed foods. While more affordable, these foods deprive us from some important nutrients that not only keep our body in shape, but our minds as well.
“You want to consume your foods as close to their natural form as possible,” says Lun. “I would try to stick to a whole foods diet. Just eating as little processed food as possible … during that processing, you lose a lot of nutrients.”
Fruits and vegetables in particular are excellent resources for getting the recommended doses of vitamins, fiber, cholesterol and most importantly anti-oxidants. Not only that, the benefits of fruits and vegetable far outweigh the medicinal approach used by some to treat their mental disorders.
But how is that tiny apple going to keep you from breaking down during your most important final exam? You probably don’t realize the difference, but your body does and so does your brain. The chart below shows all the areas certain fruits and vegetable can affect your body.
Anti-oxidants are not only good for preventing cell damage, they also play a part in your immune system, staving off deadly disease. Anti-oxidants can take on many forms once it penetrates the body, all of these affect mental health.
Here’s a short list of the vitamins and minerals found predominantly in fruits and vegetables and some effects they can have on the body:
- Vitamin A — plays an important role in retinal construction (eye function) and allows the small receptors in the retina to absorb light from the sun.
- Vitamin B — helps the formation of red blood cells. It also makes the body more receptive to energy from the food you eat. Leafy greens and beans are high in this vitamin.
- Vitamin C — found in large quantities in most citrus fruits, it helps the body form and maintain tissue, bones, skin and blood vessels.
- Beta-carotene — While beta-carotene is not an essential nutrient, the role it plays is. The yellow/orange pigment is an anti-oxidant which our body converts to vitamin A.
- Iron — helps the oxygen in our blood circulate and transport itself throughout the body.
- Calcium — Important for vascular contraction and muscle structure. However, 99 per cent of it is used to reinforce bones and teeth.
Lun calls the superfoods a “powerhouse of nutrients” as many contain most, if not all, of the nutrients listed above. But she warns that they are not the magic bullet for a healthy lifestyle.
“I think for about 95 per cent of your diet… you want to try and eat as healthy as possible,” says Lun.
Realistically, one apple will not keep the doctor away. An apple a day however, may keep any doctor away, including your psychiatrist.