A healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
That’s not just a cute turn of phrase. There is scientific evidence to show that the better your diet, the better your mental health.
In a post published on the Harvard University Health Blog in September, Eva Selhub, a renowned physician, author, and speaker, wrote that one’s brain is like a luxury vehicle, and that putting the wrong kinds of foods into your body would be the equivalent of putting a low-octane fuel in your car. Do that often enough and the car may begin to break down. It won’t function the way expected.
Selhub goes on to state that, according to multiple studies conducted over the last few decades comparing “traditional” diets with “Western” ones, those who incorporate more vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood into their traditional eating habits feel better, more alert, and less depressed, and have more energy than those who have a “Western” diet filled with refined sugar and food items.
That’s why initiatives such as the one starting up at Dodd Middle School, which seeks to promote healthy living, including regular exercise and smart eating habits, are so critical. Teaching these lessons to young people can help them develop a pattern of healthy living that lasts through their lives. Getting them off refined sugars and on fruits and vegetables will help keep them full of energy now and likely aid in staving off serious medical problems later.
This is also why state legislators should make it a point to explore options to fund school meals for all students. As The Herald reports this week, the money Cheshire has been using to offer free meals to all is running out and by this time next month it will have basically been depleted. That means parents and students will once again have to pay for meals.
The Town already offers a free and reduced-price lunch plan to any student whose family qualifies for the assistance, so no child will be allowed to go without. But given how much Connecticut residents are asked to contribute in taxes each year, free meals for all students should be a priority.
It will take some of the financial burden off of parents and ensure that students are provided at least one if not two healthy meal options per day. That will help keep them alert in the classroom, better able to engage in their own education, while also continuing to promote a lifestyle that hopefully will stretch well beyond the walls of the school buildings.
A national deterioration of mental health has been a serious concern for some time now, as rates of depression and suicide have gone up over the last few years, particularly over the course of the pandemic. All have suffered, but the issue has been particularly acute amongst students. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in May of this year, 75% of schools across the nation had staff express serious concern over the mental health of students in their classrooms. Approximately the same percentage stated that they had experienced a noticeable rise in the number of students seeking help for anxiety, depression, or trauma.
Will free meals fix this kind of a massive problem? Of course not. Cheshire students are already by and large taking advantage of breakfast and lunch options. But prioritizing healthy eating habits, taking the financial burden off of parents, and doing it all in conjunction with more of an emphasis on exercise can only help.
And for those well past their school days, working out and eating right have no expiration date. It’s never too late to start. The body craves exercise and “clean” foods, whether one is 16 or 65, and your mind will thank you for the change in priorities.