Food and Mood - Healthy Eating For a Healthy Mind
Many people understand that a healthy diet can benefit your mental health. Eating well improves your energy levels and concentration, as well as helping improve sleep, which has a knock-on effect for your mental well being.
There’s also a growing body of evidence for diet in the treatment of mental health conditions. The SMILES trial (Supporting the Modification of lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States) is one such study that was conducted between 2012 and 2015. SMILES implemented nutrition counselling for dietary change, based on a modified Mediterranean-style diet. The dietary changes included fish consumption twice per week, olive oil and unsalted nuts daily, six serves of vegetables per day and three serves of fruit, wholegrains and unsweetened dairy foods. Reduction of discretionary foods such as refined cereals, sweets, fried food and processed meats also formed the intervention.
In this study the dietary change group showed significantly greater improvement in depression scores than those in the group that received social support only. Remission from depression was achieved for 32% of participants in the diet change group, compared with 8% of the social support group.
To translate this evidence to your everyday life, try the following:
- Reduce processed sugary foods. If you have a sweet tooth after dinner, try a piece of fruit or natural yoghurt with a small drizzle of honey
- Add vegetables wherever you can. Max out your salad sandwich, have vegetables for snacks and aim for half your dinner plate to be vegetables.
- Aim to include unsalted nuts daily. A small handful (roughly 30 grams) is the recommended serve.
- Get your healthy fats by including fish at least twice per week and olive oil (this was included in a dose of 3 tablespoons per day in the SMILES trial).
- Choose wholegrains cereal foods, such as brown rice, wholegrain bread, and unprocessed breakfast cereals (e.g. oats, wholegrain wheat biscuits).
1. Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R. et al. A Randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med 15, 23 (2017).