It’s no secret that food has a major impact on our mental health. In fact, it can either make us feel better or worse—depending on what we eat. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you know that certain foods can help or hinder your mental state. Certain nutrients and vitamins can help combat the symptoms of these conditions, especially if they’re too low or too high in your diet.
Eating can be a difficult thing to do when you're feeling anxious and depressed. It's important to take care of yourself and make sure that your mental state will permit you to eat well. You can't just rely on your appetite to dictate what and how much you eat because that could lead to overeating or loss of appetite, which would both exacerbate the problem. Here are some tips to help you find the right balance for eating healthily during difficult mental states.
Why is water intake so important? + Try to limit Caffeine
Without drinking enough water you can get dehydrated. This can result in feelings of low energy as water is linked to metabolism, unclear thinking, low mood, fatigue and discomfort in physical health such as constipation. Drinking not enough water can also lead to overheating as water is related to regulating body temperature.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant which boosts your energy levels and can make you feel wide awake. The caveat is that (similar to the effects of sugar) once you get that rush, it may quickly wear off leaving you feeling anxious or depressed.
Drink the recommended amount of water a day (6-8 glasses).
Water is free and healthy! Take advantage of it!
Be careful of drinking tea, coffee and smoothies count towards your water intake though they may have adverse effects. Check out how to make healthy smoothies here.
Eat fruits rich with water like watermelon which is 92% water.
Try drinking decaffeinated drinks or limit how much you're drinking.
What fats are good for you?
Wait, good fats exist? Yes they do! As mentioned in our food for thought blog, your brain is made up of different nutrients which includes fats. The types of fats you eat greatly impact what nutrients you have in your brain and therefore can affect your mood. It’s important to consume the good kinds of fats, these include omega 3 and 6, such foods are in oily fish, poultry and nuts.
There has been research that suggests eating a higher number of trans fats has emotional effects .
Avoid eating trans fats, such as biscuits or food with a high sugar content as this can lead to low moods after you have the sugar rush. It’s also bad for your physical health.
Consume omega 3 & 6 instead.
Why protein is so important
We discussed this in detail in our previous blog but here’s a recap: Proteins contain amino acids which create neurotransmitters which are used to send signals to other neurons. These can directly change your mood, for example eating dark chocolate helps you to relax as this contains a specific amino acid which creates serotonin, the ‘happiness hormone’.
Protein also helps you to avoid overeating as it makes you feel fuller for longer. You can greatly improve unhealthy snacking habits if you have a good amount of protein in your diet.
Proteins are found in a variety of foods such as: poultry, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, legumes, cheese, lentils and seeds.
There are many vegan and vegetarian options like many of the foods listed above, why not try and add more of these to your diet?
It’s important to get a range of different types of protein, these will have different types of amino acids and therefore can produce hormones which have more variety. This may help to regulate your moods.
It’s important to keep a well balanced diet to make sure your body is healthy and you’re getting the right nutrients to give you the maximum chance of brightening your mood. Of course, we also advise to talk to a therapist / counselor if you feel like you need this.
If you want more tips or information about mental health, be sure to visit Mind.
 Mao, J. J., Xie, S. X., Keefe, J. R., Soeller, I., Li, Q. S., & Amsterdam, J. D. (2016). Long-term chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology, 23(14), 1735–1742. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2016.10.012