Why is diet important for your mental health?
By Meaghan Fitzpatrick (Dietician and Yoga Teacher)
We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, but did you know that this accounts for both your physical and mental health? The food and nutrients that we put into our bodies can have both positive and negative effects on our mood. There is no doubt that we are currently living in some unprecedented and challenging times, which means keeping our mental health in check is more important than ever. The good news is that through simply changing some of your eating patterns, you can be feeling better in no time! So get your pen and notepad ready to write down your next grocery list and enjoy…. 😊
Fish is first on the list! Think oily fish – salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerol and herring to name a few. The omega 3’s found in fish help improve brain function and memory as well as circulate our happy-feel good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin (more about this soon!).
Next comes wholegrains such as oats, quinoa, long grain brown rice, seeded sourdough bread - generally the more dense and darker in colour, the better! Wholegrains are rich in carbohydrates which are important to fuel our brain and keep our thinking sharp 😉, plus provide us with energy to keep us enjoying all the fun things in life! They also aid in the production of serotonin which stabilises our mood and keeps us feeling our best.
Third comes fermented foods and drinks such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, kefir, tempeh and kombutcha! The probiotics in these fermented foods help keep our guts healthy and happy 😊. Recent research surrounding the gut brain axis has linked mental health conditions with gut issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome - IBS. On top of this, most of our serotonin is produced in our gut! So what's serotonin you ask? Serotonin is a ‘feel good’ hormone which is important for happiness, wellbeing, digestion, and a good night’s sleep! Low levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
And lastly – you’ve heard the saying ‘eat the rainbow’ and when it comes to your mental health this is especially important! Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which can help stabilise our mood and energy levels. A good guide is 2 + 5 – that’s 2 serves of fruits and 5 serves of vegetables per day! 😊
Mohammadi AA, Jazayeri S, Khosravi-Darani K, Solati Z, Mohammadpour N, Asemi Z, et al. The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers. Nutr Neurosci. 2016 Nov;19(9):387-95. Abstract available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25879690
Healthy Food: A Powerful Tool for Managing Mental Health (anzmh.asn.au)