There is research to suggest that what we eat may affect not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing too. Whilst our thoughts and feelings can often influence our food choices, the nutrition we obtain from the foods we choose can then affect how our brains function and impact our mood and mental wellbeing. Below are our top tips on how to boost your mood with healthy food choices.
By eating regularly we can regulate our blood sugar levels better and provide our body with a steady supply of nutrition and calories to sustain us through the day. Focus on having low glycaemic (low GI), slow releasing carbohydrates to help avoid sharp rises and falls in blood sugar levels.
Don’t exclude food groups – all are important! Carbohydrates have had a lot of bad press in recent years, with many people advocating cutting out this food group altogether. The reality is, carbohydrates get broken down into glucose which is the brain’s primary energy source. Therefore, by not having enough carbohydrate in the diet, we can end up feeling fatigued and unable to concentrate.
So remember, to fuel your brain and nourish your body we need a combination of all food groups to obtain the nutrition we need. Try to have carbohydrates, fat and protein at every meal.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fatty acids which are both important for healthy brain function. Research has shown that low levels of omega-3 have been linked with a higher incidence of depression (3-5).
Omega-3 is essential for the production of neurotrophic factors which regulate the growth of brain cells. It is also believed that omega-3 can affect gene expression.
For more information on omega-3, click here.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings.
Good sources include:
For more information on fruits and vegetables, click here.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in preventing rickets in children and osteomalacia, promoting calcium absorption, bone growth and bone remodelling. It is involved in cell growth, genetic coding and functioning, neuromuscular functioning, immune functioning and reducing inflammation.
Some evidence which suggests an association between low vitamin D levels and osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, preeclampsia and cancer.
In July 2016, Public Health England released updated guidelines on the recommendations for vitamin D:
Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) all play an important role in the body. However, the following listed below are key to help ensure we have plenty of energy and maintain healthy brain function which together can help regulate our mood.
For more information, click here.
Most of us don’t drink enough, which can massively impact our mood and ability to concentrate. Try to aim for ~ 1.5-2 L fluid everyday.
A lack of fluid can lead to :
Try to limit caffeinated drinks and alcohol as these can enhance feelings of anxiety and depression and impact appetite.
1: Glycaemic Index Foundation (2016). What is Glycaemic Index? Available at http://www.gisymbol.com/about/glycemic-index/ [last accessed 22/11/16].
2: The Eatwell Guide (2016) Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-eatwell-guide [last accessed 11/1/17].
3: Su, K. et al. (2014) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Interferon-Alpha-Induced Depression: Results from a Randomized, Controlled Trial” Biological Psychiatry , 76 (7); 559–566.
4: Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, et al. (2006) Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67 (12); 1954-1967.
5: Sarris J, Mischoulon D, Schweitzer I. (2003) Omega-3 for bipolar disorder: meta-analyses of use in mania and bipolar depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Epub ahead of print.