Over the years of research, the chemistry of food has been shown to directly impact mood. A study titled ‘Food and Mood: How do diet and nutrition affect mental well-being (2020)’ suggests that through multiple hormonal, inflammatory and neural pathways, a good quality diet can have a profound impact on your mental health improving mood, stress and cognitive function.
Here are the top four dietary patterns that you can focus on in your diet to stabilise your mental well-being.
As carbohydrates are the brain’s main energy source, ensure you include wholegrains, legumes and starchy vegetables as part of your diet. This will provide a steady supply of energy to your brain and can help stabilise your mood by regulating blood sugar levels.
Nothing wrong with the occasional chocolate bar as part of a well-balanced diet however minimise your intake of such simple carbohydrates as these foods can put your mental well-being on a roller-coaster ride.
Dietitian’s Meal Idea with Complex Carbohydrates:
Delicious roasted vegetable salad with chicken, quinoa, brussel sprouts, sweet potato, red onion, rocket and feta
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Approximately 8% of your brain’s weight is comprised of omega 3 fatty acids, which we need to get from foods as our body can’t create omega 3. Foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which keep dopamine levels high in the body, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Dietitian’s Meal Idea with Omega 3’s
Wholegrain crackers with smoked salmon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and cucumber
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Your gut and brain are in constant communication through what’s known as the gut-brain axis. A healthy gut microbiome, composed of trillions of microorganisms, can influence your mood and mental health. To support a healthy gut, consume foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics include foods that have live micro-organisms in them including natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. Prebiotic foods are high-fibre foods like oats, asparagus, chickpeas, garlic and bananas.
Dietitian’s Meal Idea with Pre + Probiotics
Overnight Oats with rolled oats, milk, Greek yoghurt, chia seeds and berries
Balancing meals and snacks with lean protein sources provide the body with the building blocks to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because of its association with feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin helps regulate mood, alleviate depressive symptoms and prevents extreme mood swings. Include poultry, legumes, fish or dairy products across the day to get the benefits of serotonin.
Dietitian’s Snack Idea with Protein
Fruit dipped in nut butter or Wholegrain crackers spread with cottage cheese and sliced tomato.
While diet alone cannot replace professional mental health care, it can play a significant role in supporting mental well-being. By focusing on nutrient-rich foods, you can harness the power of nutrition to boost your mood and overall mental health. Remember, for more individualised advice, reach out to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
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