Whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition or just want to make sure you keep on an even keel, there are a variety of options for keeping your mind at its best. Perhaps the best known is therapy, which comes in various forms and provides help and guidance to a multitude of people worldwide. For more severe conditions, there is always the option of medication if the therapeutic method doesn’t work.
While the above might be the twin most likely ways of improving your mental health, there is a third. The food that we eat has a huge impact on our brain chemistry. If we eat the wrong sorts of food (and at the wrong sort of time), then it will be our mood that is the most likely to be impacted. On the flip side, eating enough of the right food – and the right nutrients – can make a huge difference when we want to feel our best.
The above is basic nutritional fact, not to different to the usual kind of advice you will see. However, it’s not just about the foods you eat – as alluded to, it’s the times that you eat them as well. Food is, ultimately, a fuel – although it’s sometimes tough to remember it when you exist in a world of foodies and with more recipes to try than you could possibly actually attempt. While in the most part we’re used to the idea of it being a fuel for our bodies, the times that we eat can have a big impact on our minds as well.
Do: Eat a protein-rich breakfast. This could be an oily fish (kippers are a traditional breakfast food for a reason) or a handful of nuts. Protein is a primary source of energy, but unlike the other sources (carbohydrates and fats), it doesn’t involve the same kind of crash you will get when your body burns through them. Slow-release, energizing foods are the way to go for the most important meal of the day.
Don’t: Eat too much. The more full you are, the more lethargic and prone to emotional outbursts you will be by midday.
Do: If you have a taste for carbohydrates, then this is the time for them. Potatoes are rich in Vitamin A, so it’s a good time to enjoy a great source of this nutrient. Vitamin deficiencies have been linked to mental health conditions, so try and ensure you cover all the bases during the day. Coupling a baked potato with a leafy-green rich salad will tick the B and D vitamins off, too. Add an orange juice, and that’s C as well.
Don’t: Overload on sugar. It’s tempting to reach for a pick-me-up, but it will just put you down in the middle of the afternoon when the sugar high wears off.
Do: Eat foods with a slow-release element, such as quinoa or various whole grains. This will help sustain you through the night without the need to snack. Also consider a small serving of carbohydrates if you struggle with insomnia; consumed an hour or so before attempting to sleep, this can be beneficial. Sleep is vital to mental health, so don’t skip on this if you’re struggling.
Don’t: Not eat. If you’re tired after work or not feeling your best, then it can be tempting to skip meals. This is especially true for illnesses like depression, which strip you of your usual appetite. Even if it’s just a couple of spoonfuls of salad, try and make sure you eat something.