Diet and Mental Health

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 2:15 pm

‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’

healthy diet

Wondering about the link between diet and mental health? Well, we all know that eating well, healthily and sensibly is a good idea. As a Psychiatrist and Functional Medicine practitioner, I take it one step further and believe that food can unlock the key towards a better mental and physical health. It makes us feel psychologically better and key nutrients in our food can treat and/or prevent mental health difficulties. Of course, this will be in conjunction with other key components of treatment such as therapy, medications etc.

‘I guess; it is easier said than done’ is what some patients tell me. It’s taking one step at a time of what feels manageable to you and then adding others over time. It can be overwhelming – taking the support and advice of a professional in the initial stages will be helpful. A range of vegetables and fruits in your diet will help provide phytonutrients, essential minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants which are all going to play a huge role in balancing a range of chemical imbalances such as serotonin levels. In addition, healthy oils, nuts and seeds will provide essential fatty acids, which again is very important for the brain. A good portion of healthy protein is also very important, such beans, pulses, eggs, chicken etc. Ideally, in the initial stages of treatment, a plant diet is very healing and helps with recovery. If there are suspicions of intolerances or allergies, then restricting some foods for a short period of time may be helpful to rebalance the gut. I am not a fan of ‘fad diets’ and I do not believe starvation is necessary, in fact the aim is abundance of the right types of foods. However, there may be role for short term (4 weeks or so) elimination diets to control inflammation. There will still be plenty to choose from, and there will be no restriction on these allowed foods. The usual recommendation is about 5 portions of fruits/vegetables, however, for treatment purposes, we recommend nearly 10 portions a day. Believe me, it is doable, and you will enjoy this new way of eating and living.

Easy steps of a healthy diet:

  • Cut down processed food from your diet, such as bakery products, ready foods etc. It may sound difficult, but it is possible. Organisation is key. Cutting or stopping processed sugar again has a huge benefit on your emotional state once you get over the initial withdrawal.
  • Stock up over the weekend with vegetables, fruits that you enjoy. You may even want to chop up some of these over the weekend and box them up for ready use with humus, dips etc.
  • Soak some oats in nut milk over night, and you can heat this up and add your favourite toppings for breakfast.
  • Pack a healthy lunch for work or school. This may include some rice, quinoa, noodles with left over vegetables from the evening, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.
  • In the evening spend 15 to 20 minutes cooking as a family. There are easy recipes that you can put together in a very short time, such as stews.
  • You can make herbal tea in a flask to hydrate you on a regular basis.
  • You can have juices or smoothies (beware of high sugars and preservatives in shop bought products).
  • Stock up on herbs and range of spices in your store cupboard, and use these generously in your recipes.
  • With kids, remember the key is perseverance and consistency, and they will also embrace this new way of eating. Lead by example – what parents do themselves is at least as important as what they say. The bonus is that you are all spending more time together as a family, cooking up meals, and hopefully taking turns.

You can always contact us or call us on 01604 432966 if you want to make an appointment for further assistance.