Did you know that what we eat can affect our mental wellbeing? That’s right, our diet doesn’t just affect our physical health; research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel.
For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we want to raise awareness about the impacts of diet on your mental wellbeing and how you can use food to lift your mood. Improving your diet and eating well may help to:
Improve your mood
Give you more energy
Help you think more clearly
Eating well means having a balanced diet full of vegetables and nutrients. Follow these top tips by mental health charity Mind to try improve your mental wellbeing.
1. Eat Regularly
If you eat at different times each day, your blood sugar will drop and you might feel tired. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels stable. Some slow-release energy foods are pasta, rice, oats, nuts and seeds.
Eat breakfast to get the day off to a good start
Instead of eating a large lunch and dinner, try eating smaller portions spaced out throughout the day
Avoid foods which make your blood sugar rise and fall quickly, like sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks, and alcohol
2. Stay hydrated
If you don’t drink enough fluid, you might find it hard to concentrate or think clearly.
Try drinking the recommended 6–8 glasses of fluid a day. Water is the best option, but tea, coffee, juices and smoothies count towards your intake too. However, be aware that these contain caffeine and sugar which may not be best
3. Get your 5 a day
Fruit and vegetables contain many of the vitamins, minerals and fibre we require to keep us both physically and mentally healthy. A good rule is to eat the rainbow: eat a variety of different coloured fruits and veggies to get a good range of nutrients.
Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced (one glass) fruits and vegetables all count towards your 5 a day
As a general rule, one portion is roughly the same as a handful, small bowl or a small glass
4. Look after your gut
Sometimes, your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious, this can make your gut slow down or speed up. Eat plenty of fibre, drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly for a healthy digestive system. Some foods which are good for your gut are fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, pulses, yoghurt and probiotics.
It might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust
5. Get enough protein
Protein contains amino acids which are chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. You can find protein in meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds.
Why not try switching up your protein? You could find something new to try for a change
6. Manage your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a stimulant which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. Caffeine is in tea, coffee, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
If you drink tea, coffee or fizzy drinks, try switching to decaffeinated versions
You can try to drink less caffeine or avoid it altogether
7. Eat the right fats
Your brain needs fatty acids to keep it working well. So, it’s important to eat the right fats. Healthy fats are found in oily fish, poultry, nuts, olive and sunflower oils, seeds, avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.
Try to avoid anything which lists 'trans fats' or 'partially hydrogenated oils' in the list of ingredients (such as some shop-bought cakes and biscuits). This kind of fat isn't good for your mood
For more information about how food can help to improve your mood, visit the British Dietetic Association to check out their food fact sheets.