Food and Mood

Mental health problems like depression, anxiety, substance misuse, eating disorders and post-natal depression are thought to affect 19% of our population, with people in Northern Ireland having a 25% increased chance of suffering from mental health problems than in England.

We have a problem and we need to talk about it! Mental health problems can go undetected, as people do their best to cover up how they are feeling, but if you suspect someone you know may be suffering, you can help. Talk about it, don’t ignore it!

Diet can be one part of the jigsaw and I work with lots of different groups and charities to increase awareness of the impact that diet can have on our mental well-being. You can find details here.

Good Mood Foods

  1. Blood sugar fluctuations result in anxiety, cravings, low mood and irritability or anger. Cutting back on sugar is the first step in the right direction, but it can be difficult to do because the sugar hit we get from chocolate, sweets and cake hits our brain’s reward centre, giving us a rush of feelgood dopamine, so we want more and more. To get off the sugar rollercoaster, try supplementing with a chromium complex to take the edge off and make it easier to quit.
  2. Good fats like coconut oil, oils fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil provide the brain with essential fats for dopamine and serotonin production.
  3. Protein also helps neurotransmitter function, so have a bit of protein with every meal and snack. Eggs, lean red meat, fish, nuts, seeds, natural yoghurt, pulses, quinoa and cottage cheese are all good sources. You may also like try a good quality protein shake like That Protein.
  4. Skipping meals can trigger an adrenalin rush, leaving you feeling wired and anxious, so set regular mealtimes and eat proper food instead of eating on the run.
  5. The amino acid tryptophan is the pre-cursor for serotonin, so eating more eggs, wild fish, free-range or organic chicken, organic dairy produce, sesame seeds and bananas will provide you with tryptophan in your diet.
  6. Swap coffee (which triggers adrenalin and contributes to anxiety) to green tea (which contains theanine to help keep us calm and focused).
  7. Green leafy vegetables are a good source of magnesium and folic acid, two key ingredients for good mental health. Broccoli, kale, rocket, watercress, spinach – eat your greens!
  8. Avoid alcohol.

Lifestyle factors

  • Exercise outside and aim for 30 minutes every day. Walking, jogging, cycling – do something you enjoy and make it part of your routine.
  • De-stress – find effective ways to manage stress, whether it is yoga, meditation, nature walks, reading books… It is personal, so find what works for you.

What about supplements?

As long as you are not currently on any medication, these supplements may be useful:

  1. 5HTP is a serotonin pre-cursor.
  2. methylated B complex to support your nervous system.
  3. L-theanine and lemon balm to aid relaxation.
  4. Good quality fish oil.

Useful Contacts

If you, or someone you love has mental health problems, these contacts might be useful for you: