Food and Mood

There is evidence that the food we eat can not only have an impact on our physical health but it can also have a big impact on the way that we feel. Find out more about mental health and food.

Tips to help you explore the relationship between mental health and food.

1.Eating regularly

If your blood sugar drops you might feel tired, irritable and depressed. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady. Slow-release energy foods include: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.

Quick tips:

  • Eating breakfast gets the day off to a good star
  • Instead of eating a large lunch and dinner, try eating smaller portions spaced out more regularly throughout the day.
  • Avoid foods which make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly, such as sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks.

2.Staying hydrated

If you don’t drink enough fluid, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel constipated (which puts no one in a good mood).

Quick tips:

  • It’s recommended that you drink between 6–8 glasses of fluid a day.
  • Water is a cheap and healthy option.
  • Tea, coffee, juices and smoothies all count towards your intake (but be aware that these may also contain caffeine or sugar).

3.Getting your 5 a day

Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy.Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients.

Quick tips:

  • Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced (one glass) fruits and vegetables all count towards your 5 a day.
  • As a general rule, one portion is about a handful, small bowl or a small glass.
  • Quick tips:
  • It might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust.
  • If you’re feeling stressed and you think it is affecting your gut, try some relaxation techniques or breathing exercises.

4.Looking after your gut

Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion you need to have plenty of fibre, fluid and exercise.Healthy gut foods include: fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.

5.Getting enough protein

Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings Protein is in: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.

Quick tip:

  • Whatever your diet, why not do some research into other foods that contain protein, and find something new to try?
  • If you drink tea, coffee or cola, try switching to decaffeinated versions.You might feel noticeably better quite quickly if you drink less caffeine or avoid it altogether.

6.Managing caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it before bed), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly.Caffeine is in: tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and other manufactured energy drinks.

Quick tips:

7.Eating the right fats

Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones.Healthy fats are found in: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.

Quick tip:

  • Try to avoid anything which lists ‘trans fats’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ in the list of ingredients (such as some shop-bought cakes and biscuits). They can be tempting when you’re feeling low, but this kind of fat isn’t good for your mood or your physical health in the long run.

 

Download our tips in a printable format:

Food and Mood

You may also find the following online resources helpful:

Diet and Mental Health. Mental Health Foundation.

Eat Well. NHS

Our volunteer Emma shares how to make her 7 ingredient healthy pancakes.

Click here to downlaod Emma’s recipe and method for 7 ingredient healthy pancakes.

Our volunteer Rameeza shows us how to make her easy pasta sauce.

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