There are many things that can affect our mental health, from work pressures to social media and others, but have you ever considered that food could have an effect on our mental health too?
An innovative way to tackle mental health
According to Dr Rangan Chatterjee, star of the BBC’s Doctor in the House, around 1 in 4 people in England suffer from a mental health issue every year. As part of an experiment to fight mental health conditions, he decided to help a 34-year-old woman named Emma to combat her depression, anxiety and panic attacks through diet.
Emma admitted to surviving on a diet of fizzy drinks, takeaways and processed food for many years, never considering they could be contributing to her condition. Dr Rangan made some recommendations to her diet and Emma now admits that she feels better through cooking fresh meals and lowering her sugar intake.
Despite these results, and an article published in the Lancet journal that spoke about the importance of nutrition to aiding mental health, diet is rarely discussed as a method of treatment.
Food and mental health
Food, of course, can affect mental health in other ways. How many times have you craved comfort food after a bad day or chocolate when your mood is low? Whilst these foods may offer a temporary pick up, they can have a long-term effect on weight gain (which can cause further depression), ill health and addictions becoming an issue.
Switching to a healthier diet can help to improve mood and energy levels, which in turn can make us more sociable, better able to deal with stress and more likely to want to do physical activity, another mood booster.
Eating for your mental health
Improving your mental health through a healthy lifestyle will not only help with issues such as stress and anxiety but will improve your overall health too. Some of the things you can do to help your mental health include:
- Cutting down on your sugar intake. Sweet foods can lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar, which can fall and affect your mood in a negative way. Instead, focus on foods which provide energy in other ways.
- Omega 3s are vital for boosting brain function and can help your memory as well as guard against neurological conditions. Make the effort to eat two portions of oily fish a week or take a supplement if you don’t feel you’re consuming enough.
- A healthy gut can help your mental health. Make sure you eat vegetables as a part of your daily diet, particularly ones that are high in prebiotic fibre.
Making sure that you exercise is also important. Even going for a brisk walk can help you to clear your head and re-energise you, alleviating your stress levels.
Many of the tips above share a lot of common ground with a Mediterranean diet, which has in the past been associated with preventing depression. Finding the right information about healthy living is important and can help ensure you eat a balanced diet. Making simple changes is easy and can help you develop healthier habits which aren’t just for your benefit, but your family’s too.
You can find more information about mental health from NHS Choices or make an appointment with your Richmond GP to discuss your symptoms.