Caring for yourself through food: how nutrition plays a role in self-care

5 minReading time

Many of us are used to the hectic, fast-paced routine we call our daily lives – we often get so caught up in the day-to-day stress that we may forget to focus on the most important thing: ourselves and our health. While there are certain obligations that we may not be able to eliminate, it is important to remember to take a step back and make time to practice self-care. There are many ways to incorporate self-care into your routine. Here, we will help you explore the importance of nutrition and the food you eat as it relates to taking care of yourself and how to engage in different self-care nutrition strategies to live a healthier lifestyle.

What is self-care and why is it important? 

Often, we tend to focus our energy outward; we jam-pack our schedules with long work hours, appointments, and activities, and use our spare time to take care of our friends and family. But when it comes to ourselves, we maintain that we do not have the time to focus inward and struggle to give ourselves a break. Due to this, self-care and how to practice it has become a widely discussed topic. The concept of self-care includes a variety of factors such as hygiene, lifestyle, socioeconomic and environmental factors, as well as nutrition – such as the quality and what type of foods that should be included in the diet (1).

While the stress we feel from our daily routines may not immediately impact our health, ignoring our individual needs and not managing the continued strain on our bodies may contribute to health problems in the future. Read: it is important to practice self-care. There are many different ways of practicing self-care to deal with or prevent illness or to maintain or establish good health (2). The intent behind self-care is to recognize your own needs and put your health first, so you may ultimately help others. 

There is no standard for self-care– we all practice self-care in different ways. For some, it may be pampering yourself with a trip to the spa, taking a bubble bath at the end of a long day, meditating, checking in with yourself, eating a healthful diet, or engaging in daily exercise. No matter what self-care means to you individually, it is about focusing on yourself and on your overall well-being. 

Nutrition and self-care

If you are looking to up your self-care routine, consider focusing on nutrition. A balanced, varied diet can be an essential part of self-care as the food you eat directly impacts your overall health and well-being. Proper nutrition can play an important role in the management of daily stress and the long-term effects that stress may cause. To expose your body to continuous stress over time can lead to health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other illnesses (3). It is therefore crucial to provide your body with the nutrition it needs to help combat stress. However, nutrition can help beyond minimizing stress. Discover some of the ways nutrition intertwines with other aspects of self-care:

1. Cooking as a form of self-care

For those of you who may find solace in cooking as a form of stress reduction, this is a perfect way to incorporate nutrition into your self-care routine. Not only can the activity of cooking help reduce stress, but having your meals prepped and planned ensures that you are eating well-balanced meals throughout the day. Consider these tips for making cooking a stress-free, simple part of your self-care routine:

  • Try a new healthy recipe. Check out apps such as Lifesum for some well-balanced, delicious recipe ideas.
  • Cook large batches of food and use leftovers for your meal prep to save on time while not skimping on the nutritional benefits.
  • Embrace steaming as an alternate, healthier form of cooking

2. Skip the spa – nutrition for your skin and hair care needs

Proper nutrition is essential, not only for our bodily functions, but also for our internal health. If you are someone who enjoys a little pampering for self-care, consider treating your body to these nutritious foods for glowing skin and luscious locks:

  • Fill up on fruits and vegetables. While research is not yet conclusive, it has been suggested that diets high in vitamins such as Vitamin C, E, D and A can promote healthier skin (4).
  • Get in your omega-3s. Upping your omega-3 fatty acid intake with foods such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines has been suggested to aid in essential functions in healthy skin (4) and may also add some extra shine to your hair.
  • For stronger, fuller hair, incorporate walnuts, apples, cherries, and oranges into your diet. These foods provide elastin to keep your hair supple and silica to prevent thinning.
  • Already into healthy eating? Go a step further and put together an at-home hair or face mask using items you already have in your kitchen, such as egg white, avocado, oatmeal, or yogurt.

3. Connect with others through food

Simply taking a moment to enjoy time with your friends or family can be another method of self-care. Eating together with someone or with a group facilitates bonding and brings people closer to one another (5). Meals have been valuable social events that have brought people together for centuries and continue to do so.

We all struggle sometimes with giving ourselves a break. With life always getting in the way, it is important to take the time you need to focus on yourself and your well-being. Self-care is not about just doing nothing; it is about doing the right things that make you connect with yourself. Whether it is through nutrition, exercise, meditation, social activities, or other methods, how will you start to engage in more self-care?

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

References

1. International Self Care Organization. What is self-care? (2020). https://isfglobal.org/what-is-self-care/ (Accessed 2020-6-4)

2. National Institute of Mental Health. 5 things you should know about stress. (2019). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml (Accessed 2020-6-4)

3. Michels, Alexander J. Linus Pauling Institute. (2011). Skin Health. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health (Accessed 2020-6-6)

4. Angelo, Gianna. Linus Pauling Institute. (2012). Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids#overview (Accessed 2020-6-6)

5. Fishler, Claude. Commensality, Society and Culture. Social Science Information. Vol. 50; no. 3-4; (2011), pp. 528-548

With Lifesum, tracking your healthy habits (and the not so healthy ones) becomes a breeze. We’ll help you pick the right food, and eat the right portion sizes, to reach your personal health goals.

All posts by lifesum