There is an old saying you are what you eat, and research shows that what we eat may be associated with wellbeing. A recent study according to the mental health foundation found that a Mediterranean diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fat such as olive oil supplemented with fish oil led to a reduction in depression amongst participants which was sustained for six months.
A poor diet has been linked to poorer mental health in children and adolescents who had eaten high levels of saturated fat.
Inequalities can contribute to the development of mental health problems. Physical health and living in poverty or deprived communities has been found to be associated with poorer mental health and wellbeing. Both inequality factors have also been shown to have a complex relationship with poor nutrition. There is also a relationship between obesity and mental health it is complex, people who are obese have an increased risk of developing depression over time whereas people experiencing depression had an increased risk of becoming obese. People with severe mental health problems on average tend to die ten to twenty-five years earlier. A number of factors may contribute to this premature mortality including dietary and nutritional factors among other things. People with obesity have a 55% increased risk of developing depression.
What we eat affects how we feel. Additives and food colourings and processed food are all bad. Nowadays people tend to be in a general rush to eat meals, often whilst running between work and activities.
Changes in diet have been linked to some people having mood swings and being irritable and unable to concentrate. It is very important to take time between meals. When a person is stressed their body may be unable to digest food and absorb food. You need to be relaxed to eat properly and it is important to eat at regular intervals to maintain blood sugar levels. Not eating well can lead to being tired and lacking in energy.
Eat plenty of fruit and veg at least five a day, avoid processed food. Drink plenty of water eat every three to four hours and eat less salt. Eat a variety of food from different groups including fish. Fish oil has shown to lead to a reduction in depression.
Good energy levels improve your ability to concentrate if your blood sugar levels drop you might feel tired irritable or depressed.
Choosing foods that release energy will help keep your sugar levels steady.
Eating breakfast gets the day off to a good start instead of eating a larger lunch or dinner try eating smaller portions spaced out more regularly throughout the day.
Avoid foods that make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly such as sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks or alcohol.
Stay hydrated drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day. If you do not drink enough fluid, you may find it difficult to concentrate.
Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of minerals and vitamins and fiber, to keep you physically and mentally active. Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you get a good range of nutrients. Fresh, frozen, tinned dried, or juiced fruits count towards your five a day.
As a rule, one portion is about a handful of fruit.
Look after your gut if you are feeling emotionally stressed or anxious this can slow your gut down or speed it up. You need plenty of fluid and exercise regularly Healthy gut foods include vegetables, whole grains, beans, pulses, and live yogurt. If you feel stressed and you think it might be affecting your gut, try relaxation techniques and breathing.
Managing caffeine is important as it is a stimulant which means it gives you a quick burst of energy, but it can also make you feel anxious and depressed and disturb your sleep pattern especially if you drink it before bed. It can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop it quickly. Caffeine is found in chocolate, tea, coffee, and energy drinks, if you like tea and coffee then consider switching to decaffeinated. You will feel much better if you eat enough protein this contains amino acids which make the chemicals in your brain regulate thoughts and feelings. Protein can be found in lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, peas, and beans. Your brain needs fatty acids such as omega 3 & 6 to keep it working.
Try to avoid anything that lists trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils they can be tempting when you feel low. This type of fat is not good for your mood or physical wellbeing.
Some foods can be dangerous to eat if you’re taking certain medications.
MAOI (A kind of antidepressant) If you are taking this avoid anything that has been fermented spoiled or pickled.
This is because when food is exposed to the air a substance called tyramine rises to high levels and the interaction between tyramine and MAOI can be very dangerous. You may also need to avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine such as chocolate, tea, and coffee as these contain tyramine.
If you are taking Lithium you need to be very careful about the amount of salt and sugar you take, sudden changes to the amount of salt and fluid in your body can affect your Lithium levels. If it gets high, it can be very dangerous.
If you are taking anti-anxiety medication such as Buspirone you need to avoid drinking or eating grapefruit as it affects the enzymes that break down medications which can cause too much or too little of the drug.
If in doubt seek help from a medical professional or dietician.
Claudette is a passionate campaigner and activist for mental health stigma and domestic abuse. She believes that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their disability or gender. She has diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder, endometriosis, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia. Claudette has a certificate in Management studies. Her interests include beauty, makeup, animals politics, current affairs and social networking.