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Food For Thought: Eat Better For Your Mental Health

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Food for your mood

What are you doing to care for your mental health?

While you will understandably care for your physical well-being, you do need to care for yourself mentally too.

This might mean seeing a doctor or a counsellor if are struggling mentally, in the same way that you might see your GP or osteopath if you were feeling physically unwell. And this might mean doing more to exercise your body too, as a good workout can boost your mental as well as your physical state.

You should also consider the foods you eat. While you will eat healthily to lose weight or to preserve your body, it's important to note that what you eat can affect you mentally too. Consider this for yourself, and if you're a parent, consider it for our child's mental health too too.

What foods should you eat?

Well, if you're already eating for your physical health, you might be eating most of the right foods anyway.

For your brain to focus and concentrate, you should include foods that contain carbohydrates in your daily meals. This is because much of your energy comes from your blood glucose levels, and the glucose in your blood comes from the carbohydrates you eat. A number of foods contain carbs, and these include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. You can see some examples here.

Also essential for your brain function too is Essential Fatty Acids or EFA's don't be scared to eat fats, just try to get the right ones such as fish, avocado, nuts etc.

When you keep your blood glucose level throughout the day, you will stabilise your mood. So, eat foods that release slow energy, such as oats and cereals, and eat small portions throughout the day. When you have a sugar rush, you also get a drop and with that comes a drop in your mood too!

Your brain also needs amino acids to help regulate your thoughts and feelings. Protein contains amino acids, so try to get as much as you can into your diet. You can find protein in lean meats, eggs, cheese, soya products, fish, seeds and nuts, and legumes.

Unsurprisingly, you also need your quota of vitamins and minerals. Your mental health can suffer if you don't, as certain deficiencies can lead to low moods, lethargy, and tiredness. As examples:

  • Iron: A lack of iron in your diet can cause you to feel tired and lethargic. Therefore, eat a healthy balance of foods rich in iron, including red meat, poultry, and fortified cereals.

  • B Vitamins: A lack of B vitamins can cause you to feel low and irritable, so be sure to add foods containing animal protein foods into your diet, including meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. Fortified cereals are also a good source of Vitamin B.

  • Folate: A lack of folate in your diet can lead to feelings of depression. So, to alleviate this, eat those foods that contain folate, including green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans.

There has also been research into the connection between gut health and mental health. This is something else you should consider when feeding your body, as by eating the right foods for your gut, it has been suggested that feelings of depression can be alleviated. Here's some good examples: -

Include probiotics such as live yogurt

  • Eat naturally colourful foods

  • Avoid an excess of sugar and processed foods – this may feel like a time when you deserve some ‘comfort’ food but consider cake, chocolate, pies, sweets, pastries etc are nutrient devoid, detrimental to your gut flora, inflammatory and likely to lead to adipose tissue being deposited around your body and organs.

I look forward to supporting you & hope to see you soon.

Louise Mercieca

Nutritional Therapist

Personal Trainer

Award-winning Author

Food writer

Presenter on Early Years TV Food

Keynote speaker

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