Despite what you see in some diet books and TV programmes, healthy eating can be really straightforward. A diet based on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta; with plenty of fruit and vegetables; some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and lentils; some milk and dairy foods; and not too much fat, salt or sugar, will give you all the nutrients you need. When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is the key to getting it right. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. 

The Eatwell Plate

The ‘Eatwell Plate’ shows to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to eat:

This video from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board gives more detail on the Eatwell Guide.

Food and Mood

We often turn to certain foods to help us feel better, or to give us a feeling of nostalgia and security, therefore the expression ‘comfort’ food.  

There is a messenger chemical in the brain called serotonin, which improves mood and how we feel. Serotonin is made with a part of protein from the diet (tryptophan), and more of this may get into the brain when carbohydrate-rich foods are eaten. This suggestion has been used to explain ‘carbohydrate craving’ – eating sweet, comfort foods to boost mood. However, there is not enough research to show that eating lots of tryptophan or eating a lot of carbohydrates can really support mood improvement in humans. But it may be that not consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrate (high protein/high fat diets) leads to low moods. 

Others things to consider for improved mood through food

How regularly do you eat?

If your blood sugar drops you might feel tired, irritable and depressed. You need to eat regularly to keep your sugar level steady, and choose foods that release energy slowly.

Do you get your 5 a day?

Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy.

Do you keep yourself hydrated?

If you don’t drink enough water, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You might also start to feel constipated.

Are you eating the right fats?

Your brain needs fatty oils (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones.

Are you having too much caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant. Having too much can make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it last thing at night), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly.

Are you drinking too much alcohol?

Alcohol not only affects the lining of the stomach and can also supress appetite; it can affect the absorption of key minerals and vitamins. Alcohol is also a depressant so will affect mood.

Watch this great video from Mind for 8 tips around how our mood can be impacted by the food we eat.

Now we’ve seen how food can have a big impact on our resilience by improving our physical and mental wellbeing. Why not use the comments box below to share a recipe for a favourite healthy, mood boosting meal for others to try.