We all have that particular food item that when we eat it we feel good; this could be a juicy burger or a delicious ice-cream. We notice that after we eat our favourite food, we smile more and experience a feel good factor, especially if we were feeling hungry before we started eating our meal. There is research that shows that what we eat affects our mental health, so yes the food that you eat matters and not anything goes.
Eating well refers to a healthy balanced diet, it does not mean that you only have to eat vegetables and no carbohydrates. If the latter is food that you enjoying eating and refrain from eating it at all, it is very likely to affect your mood negatively. The Mediterranean diet is usually recommended to engage in a healthy balanced diet, this includes: fish, vegetables, garlic, olive oil, cereal and grains. The following are a few tips of how food and routines can improve your mental health.
- Eating regularly – It is recommended that during the day you pace yourself with eating regular but small meals rather than having two big meals only. If between one meal and another your blood sugars drop, you might feel tired and irritable what we also like to refer to as ‘hangry’. Food that releases energy slowly such as pasta, oats, nuts and seeds, help to keep sugar levels steady.
- Remaining hydrated – This may seem like a basic one but drinking sufficient water during the day is important, usually it suggested to drink 8 glasses a day. If you are dehydrated, you may experience headaches which make it difficult to concentrate or think clearly.
- Nutrients – There are a number of nutrients associated with brain health. When there is a deficiency of these nutrients it can lead a person to experience depressive symptoms. Some foods which contain these healthy nutrients are salmon and seeds (contain omega-3), tuna and milk (contain B12), spinach and black beans (contain magnesium).
- Antioxidants – Individuals who have higher levels of carotenoids (these can be found in carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes) can be more optimistic about their future (Boehm eta al., 2013)
- Sleeping pattern – The food you eat affects how easily you fall asleep and how well-rested you are in the morning. A poor diet can disrupt your sleep cycle by you feeling hungry during the middle of the night. Resting well is important as this affects your mental health. When you wake up in a good mood because you have had a good night’s sleep, you can concentrate better during the day. Sleeping problems can also lead to the development of disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.
Boehm, J. K., Williams, D. R., Rimm, E. B., Ryff, C., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2013). Association between optimism and serum antioxidants in the midlife in the United States study. Psychosomatic medicine, 75(1), 2–10. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e31827c08a9