Improve your Mental Health Through Food

18 Apr, 2024

Did you know that nearly half of all Australians (almost 8.5 million) have experienced a mental health condition at some time in their life? Here’s how food can play a huge part in improving your mental health and well being.

The Link Between Food and Mental Health

There is a growing body of evidence showing a strong connection between what we eat and our mental health. Food is medicine isn’t just a saying; a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats like olive oil and fish has been linked to a lower risk of developing depression and other mental health conditions.

It can even aid in treatment! Conversely, diets high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, salt, and sugar are associated with poorer mental health outcomes.

plates of food that can assist in improving mental health and wellness

How food can affect our mood

The relationship between food and mood is complex. Our mood can influence our food choices, but research now shows that our food choices also significantly influence our mood! This two-way street is partly explained by the gut-brain axis.

The gut-brain axis is a network of communication between our gut (enteric nervous system) and our brain (central nervous system). Nerves and systems within these areas connect the gut and brain, allowing the brain to influence gut function and the gut to influence our mood, cognition, and mental health.

 

Food and Inflammation

One reason diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats benefit mental health is due to their anti-inflammatory properties. 

Chronic inflammation is common in diets high in processed foods, salt, sugar, and saturated fats. It’s also linked to other unhealthy lifestyle factors like stress, poor sleep, and lack of exercise. Chronic inflammation leads to an increase in inflammatory markers that can disrupt our neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain, and two crucial ones for mental health management are serotonin and dopamine. An anti-inflammatory diet can support the effective functioning of these neurotransmitters.

Tips for Eating to Support Your Mental Wellbeing

Rainbow on your plate 
Include colourful fruits and vegetables at every meal to boost your intake.

Healthy fats for flavour 
Add flavour with healthy fats like avocado, seeds, nuts, olive oil, herbs, and spices.

Lean protein power
Limit red meat to 2-3 servings per week. Choose leaner protein sources like chicken, fish, eggs, legumes, or tofu.

Omega-3 rich fish
Fish is a fantastic protein alternative as it’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known to improve mental health. Opt for oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.

How a mobile Dietitian appointment can help

Eating a healthy diet is crucial for good mental health. An APD can help you make sustainable changes to your diet, increasing your intake of protective foods and supporting you in managing other aspects of your diet and relationship with food.

Ready to take charge of your mental well-being through food? Book an appointment with one of our Mobile Dietitians today and see how dietary changes can make a positive difference in your life by contacting us today on 1300 122 884.

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