Eating for mental health

What with “Divorce Day” last week, “Blue Monday” this week and us in all the middle of lockdown, you’ll be forgiven for feeling slightly lower in spirits than normal.

Eating for health and wellbeing is a constant theme here and this week I wanted to draw you attention to the importance of several micronutrients in your diet when it comes to your mental health. (This list isn’t exclusive by the way, just a few of the biggies for you to consider).

  • B vitamins are essential for producing the chemicals in our brains that affect our mood. And as they’re water soluble they can’t be stored by the body so we need to replenish them regularly via our diet. They are also depleted by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine.

Dietary sources: there are 8 B vitamins, so the list is fairly extensive but think meat/fish, dairy, green leafy veg, legumes, whole grains and nuts.

  • Amongst many other uses, omega 3 fatty acids keep our cell membranes (think the outer wall of our cells) fluid, which in turn enables chemicals like serotonin (which stabilises our mood and allows for feelings of happiness and wellbeing) to be transmitted more easily. (And in pregnancy, these omega 3 fatty acids are essential for baby’s brain development so having enough for both of you is important.)

Dietary sources include: flax, chia, hemp & walnuts and fatty cold water fish (think salmon & mackerel) & algae.

  • Vitamin D is increasingly linked to brain health and cognitive function and given its broader benefits for muscles, bones, immune function & pelvic floors! (which you can read more here) it’s definitely one to keep on top of.

Dietary sources: oily fish (think salmon, sardines, herring, tuna and mackerel or cod liver oil), eggs, red meat, liver and shitake mushrooms.

So what does this mean for you in practice?

If your diet is fairly processed at the moment and high in sugar, you may want to consider making some tweaks to it for both your mental and physical health.

You don’t need to get too hung up on the specific mentioned above, instead focus on eating a more varied and minimally processed diet, which you can add a high quality supplement to if needed.

Food really can be medicine!

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