Food and Mood – Healthy Eating and Mental Health
By, Alana MacDonald, Specialist CAMHS Dietitian and CBT therapist.
Our brain – the organ that holds the door to a complex world of cognitive and emotional functioning; shaping our every day lives, social interactions, academic pursuits and of course, our personality. Yet this priceless asset is often neglected when we are considering a healthy diet. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I am going on a diet to improve my mood”? As a dietitian working in mental health and a CBT therapist, I often notice how physical health and appearance will take precedence when it comes to making dietary choices. However without a healthy and well functioning brain, so much is at risk!
Considering how foods affect our mood is no easy task. There are many aspects to dietary choices, meal patterns and emotional connections to food which all impact our mood.
Let’s start by looking at eating patterns. Poor energy levels can lead to withdrawal, anxiety and short temperament. Hunger does not bode well for maintaining emotional balance or logical thinking. Our diet regulates our blood sugars, serotonin release and energy levels. Without a regular intake of healthy and balanced foods, we are left at risk of poor emotional control and poor attention. Eating every three to four hours can help us maintain a clear mind and a good control over our mood throughout the day.
Emotional regulation and concentration
Playing an equally important part in emotional regulation and concentration is the actual content of our diet. Basing our meals and snacks around whole foods such as complex carbohydrates, good quality proteins, fruits and vegetables will help maintain a steady supply of energy, vitamins and minerals to our brain over the course of the day. This supports our concentration, reasoning and emotional stability. Maintaining good hydration with approximately 6-8 glasses of fluid will also enable quicker thinking and reaction times.