Can food affect mental health? 

YES! 

More and more research proves the link between a lack of certain nutrients in the diet and mental health issues such as stress, depression & behavioral problems.

If you are faced with a stressful situation, your body consumes the nutrients it needs for optimum brain function, leaving it in short supply. So unless this stock of nutrients is replenished, the symptoms, initially caused by the event or situation, will continue for longer than normal.

So you will experience those mental health issues for longer!

If someone is on mainstream anti-depressant drugs such as SSRI’s, SSNI’s or Tricyclics, these drugs destroy B-vitamins in the body and it is, therefore, essential to replenish these stores through diet or supplementation.

These main related nutrients are:

B1 / B3 / B5 / B6 / B12 – deficiencies lead to poor concentration, poor memory, irritability, stress, depression.

• Folic Acid – deficiencies lead to anxiety & depression

• Magnesium – deficiencies lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, stress, insomnia

• Vitamin C – deficiencies lead to depression

• Selenium – deficiencies lead to depression, irritability

• Zinc – deficiencies lead to depression, confusion, blank mind, loss of appetite, lack of motivation.

• Omega 3 – deficiencies lead to depression, poor memory

• Tryptophan – deficiencies lead to depression 

This list is sourced from the Mental Health Foundation.

High sugar foods are absorbed very quickly to give you a high, but this is quickly followed by a crashing low, followed by a craving for more!

This high dependency on sugar directly affects the sensitivity of the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for how we think, feel and behave: dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine & GABA, leading to a yo-yo in our moods.

Food has a powerful and potentially damaging effect on our daily life!

There is also the havoc that food additives and colourings have on the body – links with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, as well as food sensitivities and intolerances.

Jamie Oliver highlighted this perfectly when he tried to change the diet of school children. Results & concentration levels of these children improved dramatically as the nutrients in their foods changed for the better!

“We have to stop digging our graves with our knives and forks!” Profound, dramatic, but a very valid quote.

The best way to cover this is to eat a wide and varied diet of protein-rich foods with plenty of leafy greens and brightly coloured veg, ensuring a full variety of nutrients, but below is a checklist to guide you:

KSFL FRIENDLY GOOD MOOD FOODS

• Brown rice – B-vitamins, selenium

• Walnuts – Tryptophan rich

• Brazil nuts – selenium rich

• Sunflower & pumpkin seeds – magnesium, omega 3, zinc (with sunflower seeds also being rich in selenium)

• Garlic – selenium

• Olive oil – omega 3

• Hemp oil – omegas 3, 6 & 9

• Peppers – B-vitamins, magnesium

• Broccoli – B-vitamins, magnesium

• Spinach – Folic acid

• Bananas – B6, tryptophan

• Berries – vitamin C

• Chicken & turkey – B12, tryptophan

• Salmon & tuna – B12, omega 3, selenium & zinc

• Eggs – B12

Finally, it’s important to remember that the feel-good associations are also good for the soul!

Caffeine may give us a boost and make us alert, but too much can lead to anxiety and even depression if too dependent on it. Caffeine also restricts the blood flow to the brain by 30% so if you are trying to feel more awake or more alert then actually having a coffee is the worst thing to do!

However, the pleasures of meeting with a friend for coffee and a chat or for you to have quiet time in the afternoon, are undeniably huge in terms of well-being and mental health! It’s not the coffee that makes you feel like this, it’s the situation so swap your coffee for a fruit tea and just enjoy the moment!!!

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