Food and your mood
When you think of improving your mental health, you may not think about changing the food you eat. But there is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel!
We know a poor diet can make you feel sluggish, low and increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. But now we are seeing a healthy diet (with a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts and wholegrains) can actually improve mental health.
Here’s how eating well can improve your headspace:
- help you get a better night’s sleep
- give you more energy
- improve your concentration
- make you less likely to crave foods with high sugar, salt or fat.
Ask an expert
How can I eat for a healthier headspace?
Professor Felice Jacka is Director of the Food and Mood Centre. Here are her tips to eating a healthier diet for your mental health.
- Often we turn to unhealthy snacks when we are stressed. So it’s good to develop coping strategies that are not related to food - like exercise or mindfulness.
- We know that some foods are very good for a healthy mind. Make sure your diet includes things like: colourful fruits and vegetables, foods high in fibre (wholegrain cereals and bread, beans, chickpeas, lentils and nuts), fermented foods like unsweetened yogurt, olive oil, and fish (tinned is fine).
- Make small changes that are easy to stick to. Start by swapping an unhealthy afternoon snack for a healthy one, like a piece of fruit.
- You don’t have to be perfect, and don't be too hard on yourself. A burger or a chocolate bar are fine every now and then (say, once on the weekend). But it's important to make sure your diet includes a variety of nutritious foods, most of the time!
- Try to avoid too much red meat – a little bit is fine but keep it to 3-4 times per week.
'I’ve struggled with depression for many years. And for me, bad nutrition was a symptom of my mental health struggles. Basically, I would stop putting that time into self-care, and nutrition was a part of that.
Once I made some small changes I definitely noticed a difference. I can concentrate better, it’s easier to study, and it just makes me happier.
It’s a sense of achievement.
I know if you are really depressed it can be hard to find the energy to even leave the house. So even doing your groceries online can be good – that way you have healthier options at home.'
When you’re feeling low and stressed, it’s important to put healthy habits in place – to give yourself a better chance of coping with life’s challenges.
The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.
Last reviewed 5 June 2018