Enjoying a nutritious diet full of good stuff is a simple and enjoyable way to support better mental health everyday.
Food for thought 💭
There are lots of factors in our lives which impact our mental health, many of which are completely outside of our control.
The good news is that for everything we cannot control, there is another opportunity to do something proactive to help push the balance back in our favour.
One simple but effective way to support your mental health everyday is to enjoy food which is nutritious and nourishing.
After all, better mental health starts from within - so giving your body and mind what they need to thrive can be as simple as eating well.
Foods to feed your brain 🧠
It’s no surprise that the food and drink we consume have an impact on our body and mind. But how?
Let’s take a look at what particular foods, and food groups, do to our brain and which foods we can eat to benefit our feel-good brain chemicals.
Your brain produces chemicals called neurotransmitters to help regulate thoughts and feelings, which impacts emotions and how we experience mood.
To produce these chemicals, your brain also needs amino acids which come from protein. It's not just important to get enough protein, but also to get a 'complete' source of protein. That means getting all 9 essential amino acids.
Amino acids like tryptophan and tyrosine are needed for the brain to produce happy chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin.
Food sources of tryptophan: Bananas, oats, peanuts, chickpeas and leafy greens
- Food sources of tyrosine: Soy products, peanuts, nuts, cheese and legumes
If you eat animal products, you can usually get all of the essential amino acids from one source e.g. a portion of chicken or fish. But if you follow a plant-based or vegetarian diet, it's important to include two different protein sources with every meal - to get the right mix of amino acids.
Getting enough protein from your diet gives your body and brain the amino acids they need to function best, which can have a real positive impact on your metal health.
Fruit and Vegetables 🌽
Most of us know that getting enough fruit & veg is great for our physical health, but did you know it can also have a huge positive impact on your mental wellness?
Many studies have found that foods high in micronutrients, such as fruit and vegetables can help not only to prevent poor mental health but also to actually improve mental wellness.
These foods don’t even need to be fresh - dried, tinned and frozen are all just as beneficial for your health and are often available at a lower cost (Mind, 2023).
One great way to get enough micronutrients from your diet is to enjoy superfoods. The term ‘superfoods’ is given to foods that are very nutrient-dense, and unlike many other fruit and vegetables, this means that they contain a whole spectrum of healthy nutrients in a very small serving.
Adding a scoop of superfoods to your usual healthy meals and drinks is a convenient way to boost your intake of essential micronutrients, to support better mental health. You can learn more about superfoods below.
Getting Enough Good Fats 🥑
The word fat gets a bad rep! Not all fats are bad.
In fact, your brain needs fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 to function well. Low levels of Omega-3 may contribute to brain aging and poorer brain function (Healthline, 2023).
Studies have also shown that low fat diets have been linked to increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression.
This makes perfect sense when you consider that our brains are actually made up of around 60% fat. Getting enough fat from your diet can help to replenish your brain's stores and make sure that it is functioning best - to support your mind and mental health.
Be sure to fuel your brain appropriately by choosing healthy, brain-boosting fat sources such as those below.
- Food sources of Omega-3, Omega-6 and other healthy fats: Olive oil, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, avocados and oily fish such as mackerel (if you eat fish)
And remember, not all fat is created equal, so unfortunately those found in confectionery and junk food won't have the same great benefits!
Healthy Snacks 🌱
Low blood sugar can make you feel tired, irritable and unhappy, whereas high blood sugar levels can make you feel nauseous and weak.
Eating regularly and consuming foods that release energy slowly can help keep your blood sugar levels in a good place and keep your brain and body happier.
Avoid sugary drinks and foods, and simple carbs such as white bread. Instead, opt for natural whole foods which also contain a source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
- Great healthy snacks: Nuts and seeds, smoothies, fresh fruit, Rheal Energy Bars and some of our favourite superfood snack recipes below!
Your diet plays a huge part in how you feel physically and mentally. Incorporating a diet that is high in protein, nutrients, fibre, healthy fats and complex carbs will likely support your ongoing mental health 🤗
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Kühn S, Düzel S, Colzato L, Norman K, Gallinat J, Brandmaier AM, Lindenberger U, Widaman KF. Food for thought: association between dietary tyrosine and cognitive performance in younger and older adults. Psychol Res. 2019 Sep;83(6):1097-1106. doi: 10.1007/s00426-017-0957-4. Epub 2017 Dec 18. PMID: 29255945; PMCID: PMC6647184.
Fernstrom JD. Dietary amino acids and brain function. J Am Diet Assoc. 1994 Jan;94(1):71-7. doi: 10.1016/0002-8223(94)92045-1. PMID: 7903674.