How your diet can improve your mental health
Can improving your diet improve your mental wellbeing?
Yes! By improving what you eat, you can experience more energy, feelings of positivity, clearer thinking and a calmer mood.
As rates of mental health disorders like depression continue to rise, there is a growing interest in natural treatments like nutrition, so we’ve provided you with a snapshot of nutritional mood-boosting goodness!
If your blood sugar drops it can make you feel tired, irritable or depressed. So regularly keep your blood sugar steady – consume foods that are high in protein and release energy slowly i.e. wholegrains, nuts, and seeds! (Have a read through our macronutrients blog to find out even more about slow energy releasing foods).
Make sure you’re eating the right types and amounts of fats! Our brains require essential fatty acids like omega 3’s and omega 6’s, so big up on your nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and almonds, oily fish, avocados and sunflower and olive oils!
Eat sufficient amounts of protein! Protein contains essential amino acids that are needed by the brain to regulate our thoughts and feelings, as well as help regulate our blood sugar levels. So by eating enough legumes (i.e. beans and lentils), nuts and seeds, alongside other protein sources, you’ll be taking a step in the right direction towards improving your mood!
Hydrations is also key. Dehydration can affect the way you think and affect your concentration levels, as well as some other nasty side effects such as constipation – so keeping hydrated is essential, after all, our bodies are made up of around 65% water! If you struggle drinking water, why not spice things up a bit by drinking green and herbal teas or fruit infused water? Remember to avoid drinks high in sugar, like fizzy pops, fruit juices, and squash – even avoiding caffeinated drinks can help as caffeine acts as a diuretic making you even more dehydrated.
Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables too. Fruit and veg have an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which are all crucial to keeping us both mentally and physically fit and healthy! Eating a wide variety of fruit and veg will ensure you’re getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Back to the caffeine, not only is caffeine a diuretic, but having too much of it can make you feel more anxious and depressed, and even disturb your sleep. Cutting down on teas and coffees, cola and fizzy drinks can make you feel much better.
Remember that any changes you make to your diet can take time for your mind and body to get used to, so if you’re changing your regular eating habits, it might take a while for you to start feeling all the benefits.
You can also begin by making positive changes to the way you eat, not just what you eat!
Share your meals and cooking! Cooking on your own food may feel daunting, so try cooking and eating your food with others! Not only is this fun, but you can get creative while working together!
Preparing your food in advance is another handy method to combat those times when you don’t feel like cooking! Freeze leftover food and re-heat for those times when you can’t face making a meal.
Read food labels. By doing so you can avoid additives known to affect your mood!
- Food colourings, such as tartrazine (E102)
- Preservatives; such as sulphur dioxide (E220)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG or E621)
- Artificial sweeteners, including aspartame (E951)
Besides diet, other factors can help improve your mood, such as:
Exercise – especially if you’re exercising outdoors, this way you can enjoy the open air and increase your vitamin D levels!
Avoid – substance abuse like drugs and alcohol, as well as keeping your eye out for key ingredients in food found to negatively affect your mood!
We offer our Exercise Safely programme to those who have been diagnosed with mental health problems, click here to find out more.