Mental Health and Nutrition

As we have all experienced, our mood can affect what we eat. A bad day at work or stressful home life can have us craving specific foods.

The opposite is also true; the food we eat can affect our mood, energy, memory and concentration.

But could our diet be having a bigger impact on our mental health than we think?

How can I eat for a healthier mind?

High fruit, vegetable and wholegrain intake have been associated with lower rates of depression and overall improved brain function.

Here are some ideas for a healthy mind:

  • Include foods that we know are good for brain health including high-fibre foods (wholegrain bread/crackers/cereals, nuts and legumes), colourful fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and nuts.
  • Eat a wide variety of plant foods to get a range of fibre types from your food; this supports a healthy gut and in turn supports mental health.
  • Avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks when you are stressed by finding coping strategies that don’t involve food, for example, gentle exercise, meditation, reading a book, doing puzzles, ringing a friend or gardening.
  • Start with small steps that feel manageable and work your way up: for example have one extra serve of veggies at dinner or swap to a high-fibre breakfast cereal.
  • No one is perfect and food is supposed to be enjoyed! Having healthy patterns on a usual day is important but having dinner out, going for lunch with friends or having your favourite dessert once in a while is also a part of a healthy way of life.

Want to know more?

New research is just starting to scratch the surface about the exact role food might play in depression and other mental health conditions.

A recent study completed by the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University looked at whether healthy foods could reduce depression symptoms. They found that people who improved their diet were less depressed than those who only had social support!

High-quality diets are also associated with a lower risk of developing depression in the first place.

We also know that there are nerves that connect the brain and the gut to share information, which means that our gut and brain can talk to each other about mental state and the foods we eat.

We are yet to fully understand the full conversations that happen between these systems and to what extent poor diets contribute to mental health; watch this space!

If you would like to know more about current mental health and nutrition evidence or are interested in the science, take a look at the following page from the Food and Mood Centre, Deakin University:

If you would like to talk to someone about your food choice, book in a consultation with one of our Dietitians.