While there’s no magic pill that can make your worries and stresses disappear, the right combination of foods can do similar things. You might get a flashback to your grandmother lecturing you: “Breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper,” – but those old sayings have a way of coming true.
It is well known that three balanced meals a day go a long way for both your physical and mental health. Feeling stressed? Bulk out on foods rich in omega-3 like fish and nuts; they are proven to reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels (the chemicals responsible for stress).
Meals high in fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses give you longer-lasting energy and reduce your likeliness to get ill.
Nutritional diseases such as kwashiorkor and rickets get lots of media time, but studies around the world indicate that nutrition affects more than just physical development.
Childhood social behaviour has been linked to diet, with higher levels of friendliness, willingness to play and exploratory behaviour linked to healthy diets and sufficient food.
The importance of eating well for your body and mind, doesn’t end when you stop growing, with studies showing university students are just as vulnerable to the effects of their day-to-day meals as 5-year olds.
The large culinary shift as students move from home into university halls, has even been linked to the increase of anxiety and depression. Scientists suggest this lifestyle change, and the associated food intake change, can be linked to ‘fresher blues’ – that overwhelming feeling when all you need to cheer you up is a good Sunday roast at home. But none of this is rocket science, and chances are your mother has been nagging you for years to eat healthily and stop munching away on those Double Crunch Walkers.
Over the last 50 years, a ‘nutrient transition’ has been heavily documented. Highly-processed foods, full of vegetable oil and sugar, now constitute the majority of our diets.
Without even knowing it, all social classes have followed these changes which have high health and ecological impacts. In long running observational studies, children from schools that ran anti-junk-food programmes reported higher learning scores and better memories.
The importance of free school meals in the UK has always been an acute talking point. It seems it has never been more pronounced than now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, with movements such as Marcus Rashford’s urge to continue free healthy school meals throughout holidays when many children often go hungry.
In the middle of a pandemic, movements such as these are even more poignant.
Durham University has itself had its fair share of limelight in the healthy eating debate. With many students isolating in college accommodation, the food provided by the university was doubly important; keeping spirits high and giving students enough energy and nutrients to fight off the virus.
As stories hit social media of ‘junk-food parcels’ with only a packet of crisps and a sandwich for lunch, colleges quickly took a much needed U-turn towards hot meals, fruit and vegetables.
The push for providing meals to those who cannot afford or access it, alongside the mistakes of organisations that have a duty of care highlights the inconsistencies of our modern- day world; a world in which we take nutrition for granted and have forgotten the care we owe to the next generation.
Image: Amber Conway