Mental Health is a complex topic and is unique to each individual. Whilst there are many facets to supporting our mood and mental health, focusing on nourishing your body and mind with the right diet and lifestyle is an important foundation.
Here are some of my key recommendations:
1. Keep blood sugar in check
Being on an erratic blood sugar rollercoaster throughout the day- skipping meals, relying on high sugar and refined carbohydrate snacks to keep you going - can lead to big highs and even bigger lows playing havoc with your mood. Ever felt 'hangry' when you miss a meal?! Focus on eating 3 balanced meals every day (and 2 optional balanced snacks) to keep you blood sugar on an even keel.
2. Ensure you have adequate protein with every meal
As a rough guide, around a palmful size portion (your palm!) per meal is adequate, although this may vary depending on your exercise demands. Protein provides us with the essential amino acids we need to build our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) so is essential for ensuring we have the raw materials to support our body to function properly. It also supports better blood sugar balance: win:win! Focus on organic meat and eggs, sustainable fish, legumes, tofu and tempeh.
3. Focus on a whole-food diet
Ultra processed foods have become the norm in the Western diet but are filled with additives, emulsifiers and chemicals that can drive inflammation (a key factor in poor mental health) and disrupt our bodies natural functioning. Focusing on foods in their most natural form (think: an actual carrot rather than a carrot cake flavoured snack bar) maximises the nutritional value and ensures we are giving the body and mind every opportunity thrive.
4. Ensure plenty of Omega 3 essential fats
Omega 3s are essential fats - that means we must get them from our diet as our body doesn't make them- and they are vital for supporting our mood and brain function. EPA and DHA in particular are essential for healthy cell membranes and have a powerful anti-inflammatory role in the body. The best source of these is oily fish ( SMASH: Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring)- aim for 2-3 portions per week. Some nuts and seeds (walnuts, chia, flax) are also sources of Omega 3 although they require conversion in the body which isn't always a very efficient. If you're not a fan of fish, consider a quality supplement.
5. Look after your gut health
Ever had a gut feeling about something? Or perhaps had butterflies before a big work presentation? Both are examples of the gut-brain axis in action. This incredible two-way superhighway of information linking our gut and our brain is constantly sending messages - about the food that we eat, the environment around us, the emotions we are feeling and so on. Many of our key neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are also made in the gut. For example, 90% of the body's serotonin (our happy neurotransmitter that boost our mood) is made in the gut.
So it's pretty safe to say that looking after our gut health is key to supporting our mental health. A happy and healthy gut means more positive signals are sent to our brain Eating a wide variety of colourful plant foods, plenty of fibre and hydration is key to supporting your gut health.
6. Be mindful of caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine can drive stress and anxiety as it raises the stress hormone cortisol. Keep caffeine consumption before midday and not on an empty stomach. Alcohol can interfere with your brain chemistry and increase anxiety and depression disorders when consumed in excess. Try to avoid alcohol altogether if you know it affects your mood and mental health or stick to 1-2 units once a week with a meal. In both instances, always stay hydrated with water and aim for 1-2 litres per day.
7. Move your body every day
Exercise in whatever form suits your best, increases blood flow to the brain and raises the levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Higher serotonin levels make us feel good and dopamine helps create a sense of motivation. Aim for minimum 30 minutes of active movement per day and outdoors where possible- brisk walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, whatever brings you joy!
8. Prioritise good quality sleep
Sleep is so important for healing and regeneration in our body and poor sleep often affects our mood the next day. Be mindful of blue light in the final hours before bed and focus on creating a good wind down routine to ensure good quality slumber.
Take a look at my Salmon Buddha bowl recipe as a great way of boosting your mood with many of these key components.
If you are finding that your mental health is suffering, and you want to restore calm and happiness to your life by implementing healthy habits, book in for a FREE, no-obligation 30 minute call to discuss how working with me on a 1:1 programme can support you in achieving your goals.