Mental Health – Food to Boost Your Mood
We are all aware that nutritional food has endless benefits to your physical health, but what about your mental health?
Mental health is something that I think is of the utmost importance, hard to realise and ultimately even harder to tackle in life.
Traumatic situations can put you in a place of sink or swim. I chose to swim, and to do that, I channelled the positivity and fight that I saw in Lars, my late husband, relentlessly generate, during his battle with cancer.
We all go through difficult times, negative emotions can be a healthy reaction to the challenges we face.
We all go through difficult times, negative emotions can be a healthy reaction to the challenges we face. Sometimes, we can suffer incredibly hard situations that have lasting effects. NHS England reported that as many as 1 in 4 of us experience a mental health problem, so it is completely true when they say you are not alone.
How Cancer Affected my Mental Health
A significant part of my cancer recovery was my mental health. My brain needed to recover and rebuild memories, vocabulary, sentence structure and coordination. I faced these challenges head on using the positive mind set that Lars had taught me so well and focussed heavily on my nutrition.
One of the battles I faced was actually remembering to eat, my brain did not send the simple message that I was hungry so I had to treat it as a task which was a weird way to work. This meant I had to consciously eat to nourish my body when I didn’t feel hunger, which felt frustrating, demanding and confusing at times.
I had to consciously eat to nourish my body when I didn’t feel hunger, which felt frustrating, demanding and confusing at times.
Alongside, unprocessed views came straight out of my mouth, like a toddler. Followed by a mental review and internal argument between said toddler and its parent who had seen, reviewed, understood and explained how the response should have been processed. I had to constantly question my own thoughts, gut reaction and became very aware of what I was saying. This lack of confidence in my own thought process was incredibly hard to get to grips with.
Generally, I found it tough to communicate with others, and oddly myself; emotionally and physically too. Physical and mental healing took years, and is still going.
Changing Your Mental Health Mindset
A study published on Pubmed outlines the role of diet and nutrition on mental health and general well being. It states that “nutrition has been implicated in behaviour, mood and in the pathology and treatment of mental illness.”
Nutritional Psychiatry is a new and rapidly growing field into the prevention and support of the mental health epidemic. It is is a growing discipline that focuses on the use of food to provide these essential nutrients as part of an integrated or alternative treatment for mental health disorders.
Diet Choices that Improve your Mental Health
Different studies have shown that those who eat a highly processed diet are more at risk for developing psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety. However, those that eat a Mediterranean-style diet, are more unlikely to develop a mental disorder.
Not to mention the heightened risk of psychiatric pathologies such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which are now considered as potentially preventable diseases. A particularly interesting find from this paper outlines “only in the recent years has it been observed that cognitive deficits exist in young healthy, normal weight individuals with poor glucoregulation, again exemplifying the need for early, rather than later life, preventative nutrition measures.” This means that the sooner you embark on a life-long journey of a whole foods diet, the greater the effects will be on your mental and physical health.
…the sooner you embark on a life-long journey of a whole foods diet, the greater the effects will be on your mental and physical health.
The impact that food has on mood and other mental illnesses is being researched heavily, especially in connection with depression and anxiety. A simple diet of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins sounds too easy, right?
They base many findings on the ethos of the ‘vagus nerve’. This connects the gut and the brain which offers scientists insight into the connection between diet and disease. From a mental health perspective, 90% of serotonin (the body’s natural ‘feel good’ hormone) receptors are located in the gut which is connected to the brain, consequently by having a healthy diet you will naturally boost your serotonin levels and improve your mood. A simple scientific insight.
Five Foods for Mental Health
Therefore, by eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods you can support your brain function to be more positive. By filling your body with a good variation of nutriment is key, so here is a list of 5 easily available ingredients that you could add to your daily diet. I’ve added a recipe suggestion from the app which you can find in the app to give you some inspiration.
Berries have been found to improve symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. They also contain a compound called polyphenolics, which have been found to improve memory, concentration and attention span. As an extra bonus they are full of antioxidants that assist in repairing cells as well as inflammation caused by free radical damage (i.e pollution, toxin etc).
Pink Island Smoothie
- 200g Raspberries
- 2x bananas
- 400ml Coconut Milk
- 2 tsp honey
As previously discussed, your brain is connected to your gut. Thanks to this, probiotics, which preliminary help your digestive system run smoothly, can also impact a person’s mental health in lowering symptoms of stress and depression.
- Whole Grains
There’s a reason to love your carbs, they are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin (the ‘feel good hormone’). This assists in calming the mind, improving your mood and maintaining a steady sleep cycle. So if your body’s requirements allow, let lots of grains into your life.
Seeded Oat Bars
- 100g Coconut Oil
- 100g Raw Honey
- !00g Oats
- 25g Ground Flaxseeds
- 25g Sunflower Seeds
- 25g Shelled ground Hemp seeds
- 75g Dates
- Leafy Greens
As well as being a solid staple in certain cancer reduction foods, those that consume greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens have a slower rate of cognitive decline in comparison to those who avoid them. Cognitive impairment affects your memory, decision making and concentration.
Green Hulk Smoothie
- 2x Bananas
- ½ Avocado
- 2x Handfuls Spinach
- 2x Handfuls Kale
- 2 tbsps Peanut Butter
Beans are one of the top choices for a happy, healthy brain! Full of fibre and antioxidants, they keep you fuller for longer, your blood sugar stable giving you more energy to burn, which is essential for good mental health.
Edamame Bean & Quinoa Salad
- 100g Quinoa
- 100g Edamame beans (frozen)
- 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- Grind of Black Pepper
- 40g Pine Nuts
- 4 eggs
- Small bunch of Coriander
- 2 tbsp Mayonnaise
Download Wholesome World for a collection of nutrient dense recipes that are simple to follow and gives a head start into understanding what is in your food. Full of additional links to scientific research alongside resources such as Ted Talks and books which I have found to be invaluable in supporting my mental and physical health.