Health Ringwood Dietitian Dietician

How Can I Support Good Mental Health Through Food?

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions across the world today, and evidence tells us there is a strong relationship between a healthy diet and mental wellbeing (1, 2). Five years ago, research found that over 1 billion people were affected by mental health disorders, this equates to 7% of the world’s entire population (3). Your brain alone consumes roughly 20% of your daily energy intake, which equates to approximately 400 calories each day, so how can we support our brain’s wellbeing? (4)

Countless studies have proven significant improvement of mental health when we increase in fruit and vegetable intake (5). Is this any real surprise though? We’ve all been told that fruit and vegetables make us feel better, and are good for the health of our body. However, it is nice to see there is a direct correlation between eating an apple regularly and feeling better mentally. Additionally, consuming adequate fibre and healthy fats (omega-3 and omega-6) have also shown to help enhance your mood. These foods are wholegrains (think seedy, grainy breads/wraps, oats and bran), fish, nuts, seeds, legumes (think beans and lentils) (4).

Did you know?  

Ninety percent (90%) of serotonin (AKA ‘the happy hormone’) is created in the gut, meaning if you’re feeding your gut foods that it loves (e.g. fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds) you’re helping your body produce more serotonin, in turn contributing to your own happiness!

What if I am on an antidepressant?

Antidepressants such as ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor’ (SSRI) directly impact the gut and often people suddenly experience temporary discomfort such as nausea, loose bowel movements, constipation, pain, gas or general discomfort. This is common and can be supported through a healthy diet.

But how can I help my own mental wellbeing through food?

Start with a small goal!  Small goals are key in achieving long term success.

FRUIT:

If you’re someone who could go an entire week without heading near your fruit bowl, try to aim for x2 pieces of fruit a week. It doesn’t have to be eating it by itself, you could chop up half a banana and have it with some peanut butter on toast or have a handful of berries in some yoghurt or porridge. Perhaps you would prefer making a smoothie and adding in a piece of fruit that way. 

VEGETABLES:

Adding in extra veg into your routine doesn’t have to be a chore. Aim small and try incorporating one of the following: Slicing up some carrot or capsicum and adding it to your sandwich is quick and won’t make the bread go soggy; or roasting vegetables in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and mixed herbs which will caramelise them which makes them taste sweeter (hot tip: eating your vegetables with a healthy fat (e.g. olive oil) actually helps your body absorb their nutrients better, meaning you’re maximising the benefits). Cut extra veggies at dinner time to have them at lunch the following day to save time. Have some carrots with dip as an afternoon snack.

LEGUMES:

These guys are the most underrated food! Legumes are cheap, quick and easy. Legumes consist of different types of beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, peanuts and lupin. Sprinkle half a cup of dried lentils into your pasta sauce, or add a can of chickpeas into your salad (newly found in the same size can as tuna which makes adding them into a salad super efficient). They’re higher in fibre and protein meaning they’ll keep you fuller for longer too – an added bonus!

So I just eat these foods and my anxiety/depression will be cured?

If only it was this easy! Eating nutrient dense foods will help support better mental health, however, this doesn’t mean it is a substitute for professional help (i.e. psychology sessions). Eating wholefoods is a small, but important element of overall well-being. Health is much more than just “eating healthy”. Exercising regularly and in a way you enjoy, having a supportive group of friends and family around you, being happy in your job, seeing a psychologist regularly, having financial stability, having access to enough food and having a roof above your head all play pivotal roles in your mental wellbeing, but eating healthy does help. 

If you feel like you would like some additional dietary or mental support, feel free to book in a session with our dietitian or psychologists by ringing Felix & Sage reception on 8813 0590 or emailing reception@felixandsage.com

Adelle Kent
Dietitian
Felix & Sage Psychology

  1. Offor SJ, Orish CN, Frazzoli C, Orisakwe OE. Augmenting Clinical Interventions in Psychiatric Disorders: Systematic Review and Update on Nutrition. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2021;12:612.
  2. Friedrich MJ. Depression Is the Leading Cause of Disability Around the World. JAMA. 2017;317(15):1517-.
  3. Rehm J, Shield KD. Global Burden of Disease and the Impact of Mental and Addictive Disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports. 2019;21(2):10.
  4. .Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Mo Med. 2015;112(2):111-5.
  5. Offor SJ, Orish CN, Frazzoli C, Orisakwe OE. Augmenting Clinical Interventions in Psychiatric Disorders: Systematic Review and Update on Nutrition. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2021;12(612).

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