The foods you eat influence your mood, and your mood influences what you eat. Research has shown that specific nutrients in foods, and the foods you eat most of the time can lower the risk of developing depression, while helping manage symptoms. You can read more about these mood boosting nutrients here.
People who have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables are more likely to experience improvements in their mental health and wellbeing. Most Australians don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, and instead eat lots of foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, salt, added sugars, and saturated fat. Poor dietary patterns are associated with detrimental effects on mental health, and increase the risk of depression. Rather than focusing on particular foods, making improvements in the quality of your usual food choices is a way increase those mood boosting nutrients, including fibre, phytonutrients, probiotics, prebiotics, omega-3 fats and magnesium
Dietary quality takes into account what a person eats most of the time, how many foods they eat from the core food groups, how often they eat these foods, and how often they eat foods that are high in saturated fats, simple sugars, and salt. To find out how healthy your eating habits are, and receive recommendations on how to improve your eating habits, take the free Healthy Eating Quiz.
We’ve put together some healthy eating tips to promote wellbeing:
Start your day by eating breakfast. Skipping breakfast is associated with a higher risk of depression in both children and adults, and high risk of anxiety in adolescents. Start your day with wholegrains, such as rolled oats or whole grain toast. Add some protein from baked beans, eggs or yoghurt, plus colour from fruits or vegetables, and some healthy fats from avocado, nut butters or nuts and seeds.
Build a balanced plate, and eat from the five food groups most of the time. Follow our guide to building a balanced plate by eating a variety of foods rich in the nutrients likely to benefit mental health.
Maintain a regular eating pattern. Your brain is fueled by glucose which appears in your blood after eating foods that contain carbohydrates, such as breads, cereals, pasta, fruits and starchy vegetables. Your body’s metabolic processes do an amazing job at keeping blood glucose levels regulated. You can aim to eat healthy regular meals to give your brain enough energy to help it work efficiently.
Keep hydrated by drinking water. Being even just slightly dehydrated can have an impact on your ability to concentrate, and can increase feelings of drowsiness and irritability. Aim to drink to thirst, but keep in mind that you know you are drinking enough if your urine is roughly the colour of straw. Choose water first rather than soft drinks or juices which are high in kilojoules and simple sugars..
Consider your overall lifestyle. Sometimes food is used as a coping tool, to help regulate emotions or to provide comfort in response to stress. Take time to think about what other activities help to relieve stress or that makes you feel better. For example, reading a book, going for a walk, listening to a podcast or calling a friend.