The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust has teamed up with GP, Dr Dane Rua to highlight the vital link between nutrition and mental health, sharing simple ways in which whanau can support their wellbeing with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Our levels of stress are at an all-time high with mental health services stretched to breaking point and many whanau looking for ways to support their mental wellbeing.
Dr Rua, a 5+A Day Charitable Trust partner, says that while many factors can contribute to feeling low or stressed, we sometimes forget the importance of healthy kai to our brains and bodies.
“Getting your recommended five or more servings of colourful, fresh vegetables and two servings of fruit every day offers a real boost to both the body and the mind,” he says.
“Fresh produce is packed with a range of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that contribute to good mental health at any age.”
Good nutrition is particularly important for growing bodies and minds and Dr Rua notes that it’s never too early to start looking after the mental health of our tamariki.
“Research shows that mental health issues can start before adulthood, and one of the ways we can support our tamariki is by making sure they eat meals and snacks that are high in nutritional value.
“Take simple steps to serve up fruit and vegetables instead of processed foods. Try adding some sliced kiwifruit to their breakfast, a few baby carrots to their lunch, and roast kumara to their dinner for healthy little minds and bodies,” suggests Dr Rua.
Good nutrition doesn’t just support the mental health of the youngest members of the household.
“The close connection between our gut and brain and the importance of our digestive system means what we eat influences how we feel. Research into this complex area highlights just how important our diet is to our emotional state,” says Dr Rua.
“When you’re feeling low or stressed, take a moment to reflect on the fuel your body is running on. If it’s a diet high in sugar and processed food, swap in those recommended servings of fruit and vegetables to give yourself a natural boost of energy and nutrition.”
5+ A Day Project Manager, Carmel Ireland says that shopping in season is the best way to add fruit and vegetables to every meal.
“Seasonal fruit and vegetables not only provide the highest nutritional value but are also the most affordable. And it’s a great idea to use as much of the produce as you can – there’s lots of nutritional value stored in the skin and stems of your fruit and vegetables,” says Ireland.
“If you’re wondering where to start, or how to choose the best fruit and vegetables to support the mental health and wellbeing of your whanau, take a look at the 5+ A Day website, www.5aday.co.nz, and our social media channels which have lots of tips, recipes and ideas,” she says.