What is it?
A healthy eating plan: Emphasises vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.
How can food affect mood?
Knowing what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.
Improving your diet may help to:
improve your mood
give you more energy
help you think more clearly.
If your blood sugar drops you might feel tired, irritable and depressed. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady.
Slow-release energy foods include: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.
If you don't drink enough fluid, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel constipated (which puts no one in a good mood).
Getting your 5 a day
Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy.
Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you'll get a good range of nutrients.
Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced (one glass) fruits and vegetables all count towards your 5 a day.
As a general rule, one portion is about a handful, small bowl or a small glass.
For ideas on how to get your 5 a day, visit NHS Choices.
Looking after your gut
Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you're stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion you need to have plenty of fibre, fluid and exercise regularly.
Healthy gut foods include: fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.
It might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust.
If you're feeling stressed and you think it is affecting your gut, try some relaxation techniques or breathing exercises.
Getting enough protein
Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Protein is in: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it before bed), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly.
Caffeine is in: tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and other manufactured energy drinks.
Eating the right fats
Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it's important to eat the right ones.
Healthy fats are found in: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.
Some foods can be dangerous to eat if you're taking certain medications. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist to see what is safe when eating.