Nutrition and Self-Care
July 27, 2021
Author: Erika Martin, Dietetic Intern at Nutrition Connections
July 24th marked International Self-Care Day. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced Self-Care Month (June 24th to July 24th) to highlight the importance of self-care to both individuals and the health care system. This makes it the perfect time to think about improving our self-care, which can help reduce stress and promote well-being1. This practice looks different for everyone, whether it means taking some extra time to relax, doing physical activity, or writing in a journal. Did you know that nutrition also plays an important role in self-care?
WHO defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”2. With this, there is a recognition that individuals play an active role in managing their own health care2. We know that adequate nutrition contributes to chronic disease prevention and health promotion. While nutrition can benefit our physical health, it can also impact our mental health. The key here is that what – and how – we eat can be a way for us to take both physical and mental health self-care into our own hands.
In a world where chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are on the rise, prevention through nutrition self-care plays a significant role. Increasing our consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fats are a good step toward mitigating these adverse effects3. Ready-to-go processed foods can be the easy choice, leaving little room for more nutrient dense foods, and part of self-care is being mindful about these choices.
With respect to mental health, a recent study emphasized nutrition as a prevention and treatment for mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. It found that adequate consumption of vitamins and minerals play a key role in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain4. Those including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine all regulate mood as well as appetite, and are shown to be negatively affected by poor diet with low nutrient-density4.
Keeping both physical and mental health in mind, it is so important to consider mindful nutrition as a form of self-care. This means taking the time to plan and cook meals, eating in with others and listening to our body when we are hungry or full. Moving forward, be sure to encourage others (and yourself!) towards mindful eating and a nutrient-rich diet, as a way to take care of the body and mind.
Take a look at some of our past webinars to learn more about nutrition and mental health:
1 – Lawler, M (2021). What is Self-Care and why is it so important for your health? Everyday Health. Retrieved from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/
2 – World Health Organization (n.d.). Self-care interventions for health. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/self-care-health-interventions
3 – Kris-Etherton, P.M., Peterson, K.S., Hibbeln, J.R., Hurley, D., Kolick, V., Peoples, S., Rodriguez, N., & Woodward-Lopez, G. (2021). Nutrition and behavioural health disorders: depression and anxiety. Nutrition Reviews. 79(3), 247-260. DOI: 10.1093/nutrit/nuaa025
4 – Shultz, M.B., Martinez-Gonzalez, M., Fung, T., Lichtenstein A.H., & Forouhi, N.G. (2018). British Medical Journal. 361. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.k2396