Have you ever heard the expression “you are what you eat?” if so, have you taken time to think about it or ask yourself what that expression means? Food is fuel and the kind of fuel we use determines the state of our body. The state of our body affects the state of our mind. Therefore good fuel gives us energy all round making our brains productive just as our bodies.

Healthy or good nutrition is what fuels our bodies and we need a regular supply of good fuel if we are going to function at our best. Oxygen is part of that formula and food is another part. If we supply our bodies with a sugar-laden diet, we are filling up on poor fuel. But if we supply our bodies with a healthy diet, we are giving our brains the fuel it needs to affect our mental processes and emotions.

We can compare good nutrition to a vehicle that gets the right kind of petrol to enable it serve us well unlike one that gets petrol mixed with either paraffin or water which disables the engine and stalls the car. This example may seem outright wrong and yet the results will be similar. Like a stalled car due to wrong petrol, so are our bodies when not functioning well due to poor nutritional habits.

Right nutrition gives the body fuel that will give us the ability to work well through the day whereas the wrong food makes us sluggish and by the end of the day we are tired, unproductive or even irritable. Bad nutrition makes us prone to infections in the physical and lowers brain function mentally.

There is direct communication between the gut brain in the sense that the food we need to help us function better in the brain is processed in the gut. This link is so real that researchers call the gut our second brain. For example, serotonin (a chemical messenger) involved in controlling and regulating mood, body temperature and sleep inhibitions is produced both in the gut and in the brain. It is critical that the gut and the brain communicate properly for best result.

Secondly bacteria in the gut are responsible for the breaking down of vitamins B6,9, and 12also vitamin D. Poor food choices combined with poor digestion leads to fatigue. On the other hand, eating the right nutrients and having gut bacteria leads to good digestion, absorption and utilization of nutrients and results in healthy body and brain function.

Let us briefly review what is in eating healthy or getting all the nutrients the body needs. These classes are as follows: -

  • Vegetables and fruits – these are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals and should be consumed in large portions. It is recommended that one should take five portions of these where a portion is like a banana, an apple, a pineapple slice; three tablespoons of vegetables; one table spoon of dried fruit; 150mls of juice with reduced sugar. These are to be spread through the day. Vegetables and fruits should form just over a third of the food consumed in a day. The vegetables should not be overcooked. Sometimes the food value is lost during the cooking process. Have as much of this group of foods raw to get the best value.

  • Proteins -are essential for the body to grow and repair. These include legumes that are rich in fibre and low in fat i.e. beans, pulses and nuts. Meats, fish, eggs, diary and diary alternatives like soya milk.

  • Carbohydrates-these are good sources of energy that should be one third of the meal. They include whole wheat and rice; potatoes used best with their skin that contains vitamins. Avoid or reduce white based starches and sugar.

  • Oils - The body needs these oils in small amounts. Fish oil is important for brain health. Best oils are vegetable oils, olive sunflower, coconut oils because they are unsaturated. Where possible avoid or reduce quantity of processed oils and high fat products. Processed foods tend to have a lot of sugar and other additives.

  • Plenty of fluids - 6-8 glasses of fluids in a day is recommended. Avoid highly sweetened fluids.

  • Probiotics - these are the good bacteria needed in the stomach. They are found in fermented foods e.g. yoghurt and mala (fermented Milk).


Dr. Mutheu Talitwala, Psy. D., Consultant Psychologist, has been with Gilead Mental Health Consultants since 2013. She brought vast counselling experience having worked as a nursing trainer for many years and a senior psychology lecturer at Daystar University and Africa International University amongst other institutions, She also has extensive experience as a grief and burnout counsellor


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