Can diet help mental health?
In short, yes!
In last week's blog, I spoke about how to beat a cold, as when you are battling a cold or illness of any sort it is really easy to feel down. So, I thought it would be helpful for this week's blog to look at how diet can help improve mental health.
For so many reasons as we know it is important to eat a balanced diet for our health. But this also includes eating well for positive mental health– vegetables, fruit, good quality protein, and “healthy” fats such as olive oil and avocadoes. Also, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, are other nutritional interventions that can help alleviate low mood and anxiety.
Eating complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains is paramount as they are metabolised slower, and consequently, help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which results in feeling calmer.
The gut-brain axis is also significant, since about 95% of serotonin receptors are in the lining of the gut. A recent study in the journal, Psychiatry Research, identified an association between probiotic foods and a reduction in social anxiety. They discovered that eating probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut and kefir resulted in fewer symptoms.
Additionally, low mood and anxiety is thought to be associated with a decreased antioxidant status. Including foods rich in antioxidants may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Stock up on foods rich in vitamins A, C and E such as red kidney beans, apples, plums, berries, walnuts, spinach, kale and beetroot.
Also, if you do experience low mood and/or anxiety and you want to give The What IF Plan a go stick to Phase 3 - don’t skip meals, just in case skipping meals results in your blood sugar to drop, which may cause you to feel jittery, which then may worsen anxiety.
Are there any individual foods, which may help my low-mood and anxiety? Yes!
Turmeric and ginger are fantastic spices, packed with antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish like mackerel or wild Alaskan salmon may reduce anxiety. In 2011, a study using Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, demonstrated that omega-3s could reduce anxiety.
Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, liver, beef, egg yolk and cashews, liver, beef have also been associated with reducing anxiety.
Foods rich in magnesium such as leafy greens like spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains may also help to reduce anxiety. One rodent study found that diets low in magnesium increased anxiety-related behaviour.
What you waiting for? Try these foods and tips for a calmer you!