Eating for a healthy headspace

Eating well gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, improves your concentration and, you guessed it, keep a healthy headspace.
“When I started trying to improve my mental health I also knew I needed to improve the way I was eating. I started by having healthier snacks around and cooking up big meals. That way, when I was hungry, I had something that I could eat.”
- Kimberley Scanlon

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.

This is a pretty new and exciting area of research. Two recent studies investigated whether healthy food could reduce depression symptoms. And the results were clear. People who ate a healthier diet improved their depression symptoms more than people who focused on only social support.
 

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.

Kimberley Scanlon

'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.'

Kimberley - hY NRG member

 

Healthy habits

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.

Tips for a healthy headspace

Moving your way to a healthy headspace
Learn More
Connecting with others for a healthy headspace
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Sleeping well for a healthy headspace
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The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.

Last reviewed 5 June 2018

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