Food & Mood

We all have good days and bad days; but is there a connection between the way we feel and the foods we eat?

Which comes first? Poor diet or depression?

Being depressed certainly makes us more likely to eat unhealthy foods. However, researchers have also found that a healthy diet is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms, and healthier eating can help to reduce symptoms of depression.

Like an expensive car, your brain functions best on premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourishes the brain, and protects it from damaging oxidative stress.

Men’s diet and mental health

The link between diet and mental health is particularly relevant for men, who are statistically more likely to be overweight and suffer from diet-related diseases. This may be because men are less likely to spend time on addressing their own health issues, or may lack necessary nutrition knowledge or cooking skills.

What should I be eating?

Meals should be based on whole foods like fruits and veggies, whole grains, seeds and nuts, with some lean proteins, like fish and yogurt. Try and minimise intake of processed meats, animal fats, added sugars and refined grains (like cakes and biscuits).

Healthy fats  Enjoy in moderation some nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, and oily fish like salmon, which provide essential fatty acids for the brain.

Carbohydrates  Healthy carbohydrate foods, like oats or sweet potatoes, help to keep blood sugar levels stable, and provide glucose for the brain.  However, added sugars and refined carbohydrates can promote mood swings and fatigue, and they also increase risk of depression through raising inflammation and oxidative stress.

Vitamins and minerals  When you don’t eat enough nutrient-rich foods, especially vegetables and fruit, your body may lack vital vitamins and minerals, often affecting your energy, mood and brain function.

Water Dehydration can make you tired and irritable, but try to stay away from sugary drinks.

Be wary of…

Caffeine  Particularly in people who are not used it, too much caffeine may cause irritability and headache, and interfere with sleep.

Alcohol For many people, a single drink of alcohol releases tension, however, in excess, alcohol can negatively affect your mental health, as well as contributing to diseases, such as heart disease.  The guidelines recommend that you drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

Comfort eating Negative emotions may lead to a feeling of emptiness or an emotional void, which sometimes we try to fill with food. It can be difficult to distinguish between true and emotional hunger. However, if you eat well throughout the day, it may be easier to spot when you’re eating out of boredom, sadness or stress. It may help to keep healthier snacks to hand to fill up on, and try not to skip meals.

Take the first small steps towards healthier eating…

  • Add one healthier food to your day – like a piece of fruit.
  • Then try making one of your meals each day healthy.
  • Try looking up simple recipes online – there are also online cooking tutorials.

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