Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Nutrition for Mental health - how food can affect your mood

by Amanda Moon (nee Neubauer)

It's Mental Health Month and many people are surprised to hear how much our diet can affect how we feel emotionally and mentally. So here are a few of my top tips to help you feel your best.

1. Eat plenty of Omega 3s. These healthy fats found in oily fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) as well as chia, flaxseeds and walnuts, are involved in reducing inflammation in the body and brain. Depression is thought to be linked to inflammation in the brain, which means it struggles to function at its best and help us feel calm and happy. 

2. Eat small amounts of monounsaturated fats everyday. Olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado allow the body and brain to produce 'feel good' chemicals. Considering the brain is 70% fat, it makes sense to feed your body healthy fats!

3. Increase your antioxidants. Including a wide range of different plant foods including vegetables and fruit (particularly those of bright colour), herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, will provide your body with the ability to 'clean up' destructive free-radicals which can cause inflammation and ill-health.

4. Heal your gut with nourishing foods. Our gut is considered our ‘second brain’. This is because it contains just as many, if not more, nerves as our brain and is responsible for important communication between each other. Ninety-five percent of serotonin (a hormone best known for it's feel good effects in the brain) is produced in the gut. The ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria that live in our gut play a major role in keeping our gut healthy and happy. When the bad bacteria take over, it can result
in inflammation and a reduction in serotonin. Keep your good bacteria thriving with high-fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, as well as yoghurt, which provides additional good bacteria. Sometimes 'stressed' guts need a helping hand with a good probiotic - ask us if you are interested in kick-starting your gut health. 

5. Eat foods high in iron and zinc. Studies on single nutrients in foods and depression have produced inconsistent results, although there is evidence that zinc and iron may be important for mental health. These nutrients are found in meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy greens and soy products.

Top tip:  If you focus on eating a wide range from the 5 food groups, while balancing protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates (based on your activity levels), you have a good chance of getting everything you need to function well. But remember that while diet has its role in keeping you happy, keeping stress to a minimum is necessary – be active, get a good night sleep, enjoy daily sunshine, limit alcohol and caffeine, and do things that make you smile every day!

Want to know more? Our dietitians can help you to make changes individualised to your needs. Call now to make an appointment for nutrition advice to support your mental health.

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