Nutrition For Mental Health

13 April, 2020

            Nutrition For Mental Health

Mental health: we all have it. Nutrition: we all need it. While these two elements of everyday living don’t seem so closely connected at first glance, they are interconnected in very intricate ways.

Read our expose into how nutrition affects mental health, as we delve into some of the ways our eating habits impact our thought processes and overall mental health.

264 Million People Suffer from Depression: Where is the Remedy?

The World Health Organisation stated in 2017 that over 264 million people of all ages were affected by depression worldwide. This statistic came from this in-depth study on the number of years lived with disability for 354 diseases across the globe, conducted by the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD). With so many people suffering from such a debilitating condition on a global scale, why haven’t we discovered effective treatment options?

This is because many of us don’t consider how nutrition and diet have a considerable impact on our mental and cognitive operations. We know the nutritional choices we make have a consequential impact on how our organs function. We understand that unhealthy eating habits lead to the onset of chronic physical illnesses. People happily oblige when told to avoid certain foods or boost nutritional intake in order to benefit their physical health.

What about nutrition and mental health? The brain is an organ. We need to nurture it with the right dietary choices. Just like we consider the impact of eating fatty foods on our heart and liver, our brain requires certain nutrients in order to function at its best. It runs on the energy we consume from food. You’re using it right now, as you read this article. Have you fed your brain well today?

Improve Mental Health with Diet
Which Foods are Good for Mental Health?

Treatment Options for Mental Health Issues in the UK

Treatment options for mental health issues in the UK are scarce. The NHS is severely underfunded. The pandemic is unfortunately exacerbating the drastic lack of services available from our doctors’ surgeries and hospitals. Over the past decade, public options for treatment of mental health issues in the UK have continued to dwindle.

Studies show that the most predominant mental health issue worldwide is clinical depression. Characterised by intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts, depression causes a shocking number of deaths in the UK each year. Other mental illnesses many of us can suffer from include anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Each of these mental disorders have the potential to become extremely debilitating if left untreated. There are very few mental health resources in the UK. That’s why we, alongside many others, are trying to provide the public with healthy, mood regulating alternatives.

One frequently prescribed ‘solution’ to depression is anti-depressants. Antidepressants, while they do work for some, do not actually get to the root cause of the issue that’s causing our mental health issues. They may be a short-term remedy to get your mood back up. One study found there is a 41% reduction of depression relapse when antidepressants were combined with cognitive therapy. Imagine the reduction if you were to add a new nutritional diet tailored to improve your mental health to the mix.

Is There a Healthy Alternative to Antidepressants?

Due to this shocking lack of treatment options for mental illness in the UK, it’s clear that we must turn to other alternatives. Antidepressants may be necessary if you’re experiencing moderate, chronic or severe depression. Mild depression often does not require the use of antidepressants, so you can focus on other ways of improving your mood; like nutrition. Even if you take antidepressants, studies show greater improvement in mood when treatment is combined with further solutions.

Focusing on nutrition is unfortunately one of the most frequently overlooked potential solutions for improving mental health. Felice Jacka, of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, states that looking after our diet is equally as important to our mental health, as it is to our physical health. But how does nutrition and food have an impact on our mental health? Let’s look at the neuroscience side of things.

The Best Mood Enhancing Foods

Mental Health and Nutritional Neuroscience

Nutritional neuroscience is a rapidly emerging endeavour that gives us actionable insights as to how we can improve our mental health with nutrition. It’s a scientific discipline that explores how the nutritional intake of vitamins, and other dietary components, can alter our cognition and behaviour, as well as neurochemistry and neurobiology. Here, we’ll explain how neuroscience works in relation to our dietary and nutritional choices.

  • Regulating Bacteria in the Gut
    Nutritional neuroscientists and culinary instructors state that our diet can cause bacterial imbalances within our gut. These imbalances eventually lead to inflammation, while essential neurotransmitters such as serotonin are affected.

  • Deciphering Nutritional Insufficiencies
    Studies show how nutritional deficiencies in particular vitamins can cause widespread disruption for the nutrient-dependent processes within the brain. Nutritional neuroscience is based around identifying how these insufficiencies affect our mental health, focusing on how specific metabolic systems and neurotransmissions work.

  • Informing Healthier Populations
    Every nutritional neuroscientist feels frustration towards the global lack of consideration for the irrefutable correlations between mental health and nutrition. Having scientifically proven that our diets have an impact on our mental health and can even improve symptoms of issues such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; it’s understandable that they’re doing all they can to enhance widespread knowledge surrounding improving our diet and mental health.

Can You to Use Nutrition to Improve Mental Health?

If you are suffering from depression or other mental health issues, there are a number of healthy and nutritious meals you can put together using mood-boosting ingredients. While we don’t suggest that these will cure your mental health situation, it’s essential that you concentrate on feeding your mind as you recover. Here’s our take on a range of palatable foods to incorporate into your diet to enhance your mood:

  • Fruits
    The mood-boosting banana theory, often spread around offices and by parents, is actually correct. Bananas contain tryptophan, a particular protein that converts into serotonin once efficiently digested, lifting our mood while potassium gives us much-needed energy to function. A source rich in vitamin C, kiwis have also been found to enhance mood, particularly in those who don’t regularly eat fruit. Vitamin C is said to improve mental health issues due to its role in synthesising monoamine neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and even serotonin, especially in males.

  • Berries
    Eating berries is found to have similar effects to taking valproic acid. This is an anticonvulsant medication used to treat bipolar disorder, preventing manic episodes by enhancing levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Antioxidants found in berries also reduce the presence of harmful chemicals, while reported neuron signalling changes induced by berry consumption prevent inflammation and neuron damage. These findings suggest that eating berries can regulate our mood, while reducing unwanted symptoms associated with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder.
  • Beans and Legumes
    Fluctuations within our blood sugar levels can have a significant impact on our mood. Beans are loaded with protein and fibre, which work in combination to regulate and stabilise blood sugar levels.

  • Vegetables and Leafy Greens
    One study into fruit and vegetable intake and mental health in adults found some compelling results for the link between leafy greens and mental health. They concluded that individuals eating more leafy greens (and berries) had higher levels of optimism, with lower levels of psychological distress and thus, lower risk of developing depressive disorders. The overall conclusion from the study was that high fruit and vegetable intake has a substantial positive correlation with improved mental health.

  • Wholegrains
    Eating wholegrains can trigger the release of serotonin, the natural mood-stabilising hormone in our brains. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) anti-depressants work to increase the level of serotonin in our brains, by blocking their ability to absorb back into neurons. This keeps any serotonin that is produced in our systems for longer, enhancing feelings of wellbeing over time. If foods have the potential to enhance our levels of serotonin, why are we so reliant on anti-depressants?

  • Oily Fish
    Fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that have been proven to reduce the prevalence or severity of mental health issues, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 acids can diffuse through brain cell membranes with ease, where they then bond with molecules that control our moods. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, said to improve symptoms of depression. Further supporting the hypothesis that eating fish improves mental health, one study found that depression was less common in areas that eat an abundance of fish.

    Mental health is increasingly improved by eating fish, due to the high levels of vitamin D found in oily fish, including salmon, mackerel and sardines. One study found epidemiological evidence suggesting a 50% increase of suicide risk in those suffering from vitamin D deficiency. This is because vitamin D regulates Ca2+ concentrations, as well as serotonin synthesis.

The Mediterranean diet is often cited to include foods that help boost our mental health. With fresh fish easy to access, and plenty of beans and wholegrains, the Mediterranean diet is inherently healthy. Considering the aforementioned positive impact these particular foods will have on your mental health, too, it looks like we’ve identified the perfect diet to regulate our moods.

How to Improve Mental Health Naturally

Find Your Remedy: Nutritious Foods Tailored to Improve Your Mental Health

Here at Remedy Kitchen, we’re tuned in to all the ongoing buzz about nutrition, diet and mental health. As we’re constantly discovering more about how nutrition and mental health are linked, we’re able to develop tasty and nutritious recipes that actually improve your mental health.

Our Luxury Meal Prep service offers you just the solution: tasty, fresh recipes delivered straight to you. Each of our interchangeable recipes are carefully considered with mental health in mind. We figure out exactly which ingredients to incorporate into your diet for optimum mood and energy boost, while also concentrating on your long-term health.

Make your week easier with our 5-Day Taster Meal Prep dishes. Restaurant quality recipes with incorporated nutritional knowledge to heighten your mood throughout the week, this is the ideal solution if you’re looking to try our range of healthy food services.

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About the Author

The Remedy Kitchen concept and ethos was created by Katie McIntosh, Remedy Kitchen’s co-founder and Managing Director.
Katie is a specialist in Nutritional Interventions for Eating Disorders & Obesity, and has completed an expanding range of wellbeing-centric qualifications to date, including Detox Specialist, Advanced Sports & Exercise Nutrition, Performance Enhancement Specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach and BSc Psychology. Katie is also a member of the British Psychological Society.
Having first launched her career as a fitness professional back in 2015, Katie realised her passion for helping others use nutrition to elevate their health could be put to better use. It was this realisation, along with the identification of a stark gap in the market, that transformed the Remedy Kitchen concept into what it is today.