Good Food = Good Mood
Can our diet affect our mental health?
Healthy eating is vital not just for our physical health but for our mental wellbeing also. Just like a car, our brains respond to what we eat and drink and functions best when we fill them with premium fuel. Whilst there is no single nutrient to cure anxiety or depression, eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats are essential to keep our brains happy and functioning well.
Which foods are best for our mental health?
Amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of protein, are found in animal sources such as eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and seafood, and plant based sources such as soy, quinoa and buckwheat. They’re essential to our brain's production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine (often referred to as our feel good chemicals), which both play important roles in our brain and mental health. For optimal health, ensure lean meats and low-fat dairy are prioritised.
Carbohydrates are found in various foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and dairy products. They're our brain's primary source of energy or fuel, and play a crucial role in our overall brain function. Carbohydrates stimulate our brains production of serotonin, which as previously mentioned, helps to regulate our mood.
Fatty acids, including omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9, are primarily found in oily fish, plant oils, nuts, and seeds. They’re associated with improvements in brain health, including better cognitive function, mood, learning, memory, as well as actually reducing anxiety. Not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids has also been linked to depression.
Here at Fodbods, we specifically formulated our bars to provide the optimal balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats. They contain three plant proteins (pea, rice and soy) which offer a more complete and superior amino acid profile compared to any single plant protein alone. The healthy fats are derived from nuts (almonds or peanuts), and carbohydrates mostly from organic rice malt syrup. Everything you need in one little bar!
Which foods are worst for our mental health?
Despite simple carbohydrates still causing our serotonin levels to spike, they lack substance and nutrients which actually causes the short lived serotonin increase to abruptly decrease and result in a “sugar crash”.
Highly refined and processed foods often contain high amounts of fat and sugar and are found in certain foods such as:
- Sugary drinks and candy e.g. lollies, chocolate, soft drink, energy drinks, juice
- Baked goods e.g. muffins, cakes, cookies, doughnuts
- Fried foods e.g. hot chips, takeaway/fast food
- Processed meats e.g. sausages, salami, bacon, hot dogs
Excess alcohol consumption has also been shown to have negative effects on our brain. Whilst it’s often consumed to help you relax, it can actually leave you feeling anxious and agitated. Alcohol is a depressant, which changes the chemical makeup and processes in our brain. This can alter our moods, energy levels, sleeping patterns, concentration and memory (I’m sure you’re all familiar with the brain fog that comes after having a big night out).
What about “superfoods” or “brain-boosting foods”?
Whilst there is some evidence to suggest specific herbs, supplements or foods like adaptogenic mushrooms, dark chocolate and turmeric can support mental wellbeing, they’re not really necessary. Lots of foods help to keep our brains happy.
We recommend incorporating a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean meats (and Fodbods, of course) to stay healthy and energized. Variety is key, so try and mix it up to ensure you’re fuelling your body and brain with a plethora of nourishing nutrients. It’s also just as important to remember to steer clear of the foods that can negatively impact your brain health.
Please note: if you’re interested in experimenting with certain supplements or herbs, please talk with your healthcare provider first to ensure they’re safe and appropriate for your needs. For individualised advice, please consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian.