by Jo Flynn
Eating enough of the right foods can be difficult, especially during times of stress. We’re all quick to guzzle orange juice when we feel a cold coming on, but what can we eat to help mental health and mood? Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals have been found to be associated with mood and mental health.
Your diet may lack Vitamin B1 – found in:
Veg: peppers, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, green peas, aubergine, brussel sprouts. Meat & fish: pork, tuna, salmon, mussels. Beans & pulses: lentils, soya milk. Whole grains: spelt bread, oats, brown rice, barley, fresh pasta. Nuts & seeds: sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds.
Irritability / Stress / Poor memory
Your diet may lack Vitamin B6 – found in:
Fruit & veg: bananas, mango, avocado, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, squash, asparagus, bok choy, potatoes. Meat & fish: chicken, pork loin, turkey, tuna, trout, salmon. Beans & pulses: lima beans, soybeans, chickpeas. Whole grains: brown rice, oats, bran, barley. Seeds: sunflower seeds.
Anxiety / Depression
Your diet may lack Folic Acid – found in:
Fruit & veg: oranges, spinach, lettuce, asparagus, beetroot, bok choi, broccoli, green peas, avocados, cauliflower. Meat & Fish: turkey, cod, tuna, salmon, shrimp. Beans & pulses: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans. Nuts & seeds: peanuts, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts.
Anxiety / Depression / Insomnia / Irritability / Stress
Your diet may lack Magnesium – found in:
Fruit & veg: oranges, bananas, kiwis, strawberries, blackberries, raisins, spinach, avocados, peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green cabbage. Whole grains: oats, bran, long grain rice, buckwheat, barley, quinoa. Nuts & seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds. Dairy: plain yoghurt, chocolate (any cocoa).
Blank mind / Depression / Lack of motivation / Loss of appetite
Your diet may lack Zinc – found in:
Fruit & veg: blackberries, kiwis, spinach, mushrooms, squash, asparagus, broccoli. Meat & fish: chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, mince beef. Beans & pulses: chickpeas, kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, miso. Whole grains: fortified breakfast cereals. Nuts & seeds: cashews, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Dairy: mozzarella, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, plain yoghurt.
Jo’s Handy Tips
Even if your diet does not lack specific nutrients, these are great foods for general health and wellbeing. Refined sugars and carbohydrates are likely to make you crash, so try to choose wholegrain alternatives and natural sugars where possible. Eating regularly throughout the day will also help to prevent swings in blood sugar levels.
It is also generally advised that the following types of food and drink are likely to worsen sleep quality. Avoid the following for a more restful night:
– spicy foods
– heavy, fatty foods
– high sugar foods (including sugary cereals)
– caffeinated food and drinks 6 hours before bed (check labels on herbal teas)
Hopefully some of the information above has been useful to you, but please remember that no one has the perfect diet and often, being overly focused on what you are eating can cause more stress in the long run! Periods of high stress can often trigger disordered eating, especially among people who currently have or have previously experienced an eating disorder. Being aware of your own eating patterns and speaking to someone as soon as you notice anything alarming or abnormal, is the best way to prevent problems from escalating.