The Link Between Food and Mental Health Is Real — Here’s How to Eat for Happiness

Accredited nutritionist and Healthy Care partner, Jacqueline Alwill dishes the detail on how to support your mood through diet, movement and supplementation. 

When you think about improving your mood, many of my clients often don’t connect the dots between what you eat and how you feel.  For so many years we only correlated diet with our physical form and I strongly believe this attitude is redundant, especially in 2020.

A considerable amount of research has been done in the last couple of years that explores the strong correlation between healthy eating habits and improved mental health. The data shows loud and clear that those of us who eat a healthier varied diet supported with regular movement, have better mood, sleep and energy levels.

So, on World Mental Health Day, here are my sure-fire tips to eating your way to happiness.

Go natural

Fill your diet with an abundance of whole foods and support your mental health by eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains. Remember herbs and spices can also add so much flavour to your cooking — go nuts with them and use them in abundance!

Now, I’m not saying cut it out altogether, however, if we all aim to reduce our caffeine intake to one cup a day and cut back on highly processed foods and sugars; we’d feel the difference in our mind.

Know your good fats from your bad

Healthy fats should become your friend! Aim to include foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids that help the brain function more efficiently. Learn to love avocados, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts and seeds and fatty fish like salmon and trout.

These will help you feel more focused, support better memory and stabilise energy levels which in turn reduces highs and lows which can affect mood throughout the day. I’m also a huge fan of Healthy Care’s Ultimate Omega 3-6-9 to give you that little bit of extra nutritional support.

Mushrooms for mood and focus

Did you know that mushrooms support mental acuity, mood, energy and immune function? They are also a good source of vitamin D which plays a key role in mental health. I suggest integrating shitake, reishi or even maitake mushrooms in your meals where you can. Maybe a beautiful omelette in the morning or throw them into a stir fry for an evening boost of goodness.

If you struggle with mushrooms, supplement with Healthy Care High Strength Ashwagandha which supports the body’s stress response and immune function.

Image: Jacqueline Alwill

Get creative with your morning porridge

Whole grains like oats, oatbran, buckwheat, wheat bran, brown rice, barley and quinoa are rich in complex carbohydrates and tryptophan which work synergistically to allow tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and support serotonin production — our happy hormone!

They also make a beautiful morning porridge and are rich in fibre, which slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and maintains energy levels for longer throughout the day.

Fermented foods are fun

It’s not just a fad, fermented foods are really good for you. Think kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso and natural unsweetened yoghurt. All these types of foods feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut which produce short-chain fatty acids to support the communication loop between our brain and gut. This can improve mental clarity and positive state of mind.

Eat the rainbow

Colourful fruits and vegetables are your friends. I try to make my plates as colourful as possible by leaning into oranges, strawberries, blueberries, sweet potato and broccoli for that extra pop of colour.  Colourful fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant compounds and Vitamin C which aim to protect both brain and body cells from the effects of stress and oxidative damage.

Stress is something we all know too well this year and a product I’m really loving, to support my colourful plate, is the Healthy Care Vitamin C + Olive Leaf Extract for high-quality antioxidant support and stronger brain and immune function.

Go slow in the evening

Often, we load up on sugary treats in the evening, which can lead to disrupted sleep. I’m not suggesting eliminating desserts altogether, but perhaps satisfying your sweet tooth with some healthier option might help create a positive evening routine.

I love a piece of my healthy chocolate at night with a cup of herbal tea. Once you’re done with this, pop your legs up on the wall and take some big belly breaths and just try to unwind. Try to also avoid screens and hyperstimulation from devices. Grab a good book and let your mind slow down naturally instead.

I’m also a huge fan of lavender oil. This can be dabbed on your pulse points as a natural oil or you can even try Healthy Care Mind Calm which is a super high-quality Lavender Oil you can take orally to relieve nervous unrest, restlessness and improve sleep.

Create an evening ritual which takes you back to basics.  Trust me, your mind will thank you for it in due course.

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