Diet & Mental Health

We all know that diet is good for our physical health; however, it can also play a part in our Mental Health too. The area of Nutritional Psychiatry is relatively new but research is starting to show that not only can what we eat affect us physically, but it can play a part in how we feel mentally too.

To start with a fact; people who eat a traditional diet, for example, Japanese or Mediterranean are 25 – 35% less likely to suffer from Depression.

Your brain needs the right food to function properly. All the time links between diet and physical and mental illnesses are being better understood.

What foods / nutrients should you eat that will help your mood?


Never neglect your gut. 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut so low levels of serotonin can influence poor moods. So think Kimchi, Kombucha, yogurt, cottage cheese, Miso and other fermented foods. By keeping your friendly gut bacteria at healthy levels it will help your overall physical and mental health.


Low levels of Selenium have been linked to poor moods. As well as supplements, it can be found
in whole grains, Brazil nuts, some seafood and organ meats, such as liver.


helps the body perceive taste, boosts the immune system, and may also influence depression. Zinc levels may be lower in people with clinical depression, and zinc supplementation may also improve the effectiveness of antidepressants. As well as supplements, Zinc is in whole grains, oysters, beans, and nuts.

Omega 3

May increase the level of healthful fats available to the brain, preserve the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, and keep the brain working at the highest level. In turn, this can reduce the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases occurring. Sources include Mackerel, Salmon, tuna nuts (almonds and walnuts) and seeds such as flaxseed.

B Vitamins

Vitamin B12 and folate, or vitamin B9, have both been linked to a reduced risk of mood disorders. Sources of B vitamins include eggs, meat, poultry, fish, oysters, milk, whole grains.


Getting adequate protein is essential for everyone, but some forms of protein, in particular, is important for mental health. Foods such as tuna, turkey, and chickpeas have good levels of tryptophan, which is needed to form serotonin.

Vitamin D

Get outside and get some sun. Vitamin D has been shown to help in mood disorders. So if is damp and grey, get fortified breakfast cereals and milk (plant based alternatives will have vitamin D added) and oily fish such as mackerel and salmon.


Vitamins A, C, E are all required by the body to help repair cells damaged by free radials such as premature cell death, aging and cell mutations. It has also been shown that having your antioxidants helps reduce inflammation and stress related disorders.

Foods to avoid

Likewise with what foods you should eat, here is a list of some of the foods you should avoid:

Processed food

Sorry, that includes food such as sausages and bacon. But more importantly those quick ready meals. These contain refined carbs and are not nutrient dense, thus, can cause mood and emotion swings once energy from the food has
been used by the body.


Not only is it full of empty calories, but it also acts as a depressant.


Caffeine can cause anxiety, so it is best avoided, especially after midday.

Foods high in Sugar

These foods are not full of nutrients and can cause a crash once the energy is gone and this can influence mood and emotions.

Processed oils

Avoid Safflower and corn oil as these are high in Omega 6. Whilst some Omega 6 is necessary, it can also promote inflammation in the brain and bring on depression symptoms.

Food tips to boost your mood

The British Dietetic Association advises the following:

  • Get the right balance of fats in your diet
  • Eat wholegrains, fruit and vegetables
  • Include Oily fish in your diet

So, here are a few ideas on how you can incorporate some food and snacks into your daily routine that will help your mood!


Full of chickpeas, garlic and spices. Good for you, full of healthy fats and wholegrain Also full of Protein too especially Tryptophan which is needed by the body to help form Serotonin.


Such as guacamole and hummus with veg sticks. The fresh veg is good you full of vitamins and minerals. Dips, again chickpeas which are good for you, see above! Guacamole is avocado, coriander and chillies. Healthy fats, Vitamin B6, Magnesium.

Fruit Kebabs

Fruit, full of Antioxidants and vitamins and minerals for healthy you and healthy mind. Also a fun
way to have fruit! You could also do a dark chocolate dip for them as a bit of indulgence.

Savoury Kebabs

On the kebab front, a mixture of skewers with fish and/or veg marinated in Indian spices. Use salmon, tuna, mackerel. All good sources of Vitamin D and Omega 3. Serve with a yogurt dip. Get B vitamins and healthy gut
bacteria too.


Try mackerel with Salsa Verde – make up a Salsa Verde and smear onto Mackerel fillets before wrapping up and securing with a cocktail stick and cooking. Mackerel is a sustainable fish, good source of Vitamin D and Omega 3. Also with a Salsa Verde you are getting healthy fats from the oil and herbs. Never underestimate the power of herbs!!


Lastly, how about a healthy flapjack full of fruit, nuts and seeds (assuming no one has a nut allergy). Make up the bar with almond or peanut butter instead of melted butter and then use fruit, nuts and seeds instead of golden syrup. Again, wholegrains, selenium, zinc, b vitamins, omega 3. All healthy and good for the mind too!

For more information on how I can help you from Nutritional Assessments to Health Reboots and other services please get in contact. And if you’ve found these tips useful, why not come along to one of my monthly Food Clinics helping you make healthy choices for you and your family without costing the earth or taking up loads of time!

Are you a busy mum and want to make healthy meals for your growing family? Perhaps you’re pregnant and want to know how to eat healthily. Maybe you want to know how to start weaning your baby or have growing children who are fussy eaters?

Or do you need to change your diet for whatever reason? Or simply want to lose weight and find yourself confused by the sheer number of diets out there?

Passionate about good food and healthy eating, Flick is a Diet and Nutrition Adviser offering a range of services for anyone who wants to overhaul their eating habits.


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  • Claire Bushell Claire Bushell says:

    Thanks for the great tips, Flick. It’s a shame that when I’m feeling stressed that the things I crave (and I’m sure I’m not alone) are the worst for me – processed foods, sugary foods, alcohol (!), etc.. Looking forward to finding out more at your food clinic at the weekend.

  • Sheila Bond Sheila Bond says:

    I didn’t know so many foods could affect our mood! Very interesting to read, thanks Flick.

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