Food is our best medicine. This statement is one I've heard many times over the couse of my treatment and recovery, but it took me far too long to understand it. Suffering from major depressive disorder, it was difficult to find the right medications for me.

However, I did notice during this time was that the foods I ate impacted my mood and emotional state so much and how much my body and mind appreciated the fresh foods that were packed with all the good stuff.

Food, nutrition and our diet can significantly affect not only our physical health, but also our emotional health. We all know that by eating right and maintaing regular excercise we feel so much better, but did you know that other symptoms you experience could be a result of your diet? 

Nutrient deficiencies have a huge impact on your mental and emotional state.

It's not uncommon for an onset of acute, short term depression to be a result of decreased omega-3 and Vitamin D. There are many other symptoms that can be relieved through appropriate diet choices and can even help in the treatment of diagnosed mental illness. 

The way food can affect our mood can vary, but there are common connections between the levels of additives and chemicals that are in many packaged and processed foods. While these foods are hard to avoid completely, there are other foods you can incorporate into your diet to provide nutrients you need. 

Some symptoms that can be related to nutrient deficiencies include depression, poor concentration and attention, poor memory and irritability

What nutrients are best and what foods are they in? 

There are so many nutrients that can assist in alievating these symptoms, and they vary depending on your own experiences. They are usually found in fresh foods such as vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds. 

Depression

Vitamin B3, B6, Folic Acid and Magnesium are essential for maintaining a stable mood and assisting in the treatment of depression. They are found in broccoli, squash, tuna, avocade, chicken, oranges, spinach, bananas and walnuts. 

Poor concentration and attention

Lunch seems ages ago and dinner seems too far away, you can't focus on the task at hand and you've got the attention span of a toddler. Sound familiar? Try adding some Vitamin B1 into your diet. Oatsm cabbage, broccoli, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, tuna and pork all contain Vitamin B1 which helps improve concentration and attention. Try packing a handful of nuts for afternoon tea or a tuna salad for lunch! 

Poor Memory

Having trouble remembering when your appointments are scheduled? Omega 3 fatty acids (Found in salmon, tuna, trout, Walnuts, flaxseed) and vitamin B12 ( Found in tuna, shrimp, crab, cottage cheese, low fat yoghurt, boiled eggs and milk) are great for improving memory. 

Irritability

Do you ever feel like you could snap at anyone within a 100metre radius for no apparent reason? You might be lacking in magnesium. It's a very common nutrient, found in spinach, avocado, almonds, peanuts, banana, blackberries, strawberries, oranges and even chocolate! 

My dietician often points out the connection between my bad days and days where I've not eaten properly and I began to notice that the days that seemed much more bearable were days where I've managed to incorporate the above foods into my diet. It's often tricky when you're on the go all the time or very busy, but if you freeze your meals or carry little snack containers it makes it easier to maintain a healthy diet! 

Have you ever noticed the connection between your diet and mental health? What has helped you? 

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Lucy Gilkison

Lucy Gilkison is a 19 year old nursing student living in Sydney, Australia. She aspires to work in pediatrics/adolescent mental health when she graduates. Spending most of her time reading or writing, she thrives on any opportunity to build on her ideas and opinions. Currently recovering from severe depression, bulimia nervosa and an anxiety disorder, she's passionate about raising awareness of mental health and reducing the stigma.
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2 Responses to Happy Eating – How Your Diet Can Affect Your Mood

  1. Courtney Tucker says:

    This is very true, having eaten bad foods, mostly processed, packaged starches with very few veggies all of my life you could imagine how awful and depressed I have been!
     
     

  2. Courtney – one thing I'm big on reinforcing is that food isn't bad. No food is bad. Eating too much of certain foods may make you feel bad, however. It's important not to ever cut out foods completely and telling yourself you should never eat them. This promotes cravings – naturally, our minds want what we can't have. Nourishing your body with fresh, nutrient filled foods is important, but you should allow yourself all the other foods you enjoy occasionally too. 

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