We all know that it’s important to eat a balanced diet for a healthy body. It’s taught in schools, it’s on adverts, and your doctor has at some point probably given you some advice on what to eat. But one thing that we rarely consider when choosing what to eat is how it will affect our mental health.
Research over the past few years has consistently shown that our diets can affect our mood – and it’s about more than feeling good about remembering your five a day.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, food plays an important role in the prevention of depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s.
They say, “a balanced mood and feelings of well-being can be protected by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.”
Less than half of people diagnosed with mental health issues eat fresh fruit every day, whereas two-thirds of those without issues say they do.
However, it’s not all about your fruit and vegetables. Doctors say that increasing your intake of Omega 3, by eating leafy vegetables or fatty fish like salmon, is important for brain function and can help with conditions like anxiety.
They also advise trying to increase your tryptophan, an amino acid found in pork, chicken, and seeds which gets converted into serotonin – the chemical which balances your brain, and which often people with depression have a lack of.
This is supported by data from a trial held in 2015, called Supporting the Modification of lifestyle in the Lowered Emotional States (SMILES), which altered the diets of individuals who exhibited symptoms of depression. The results showed that those who altered their diets the most saw the biggest improvement in their moods.
While research of this kind is still fairly new, it does seem that food consistently has an effect on our mental health.