Diet and its impacts on mental health

Two young couples are enjoying a dinner party at home. They are eating homemade spaghetti carbonara with garlic bread and salad.
Two young couples are enjoying a dinner party at home. They are eating homemade spaghetti carbonara with garlic bread and salad.

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Just like exercise, there is a lot of research that suggests diet can have a large effect on your mental health and wellbeing. Even medically diagnosed depression can be affected by what foods you eat, studies by the National Institute of Health have shown that good nutrition can reduce the severity and duration. This begs an important question: what specific changes should you make to your diet in order to improve your mental health?

Surprisingly, there are some very specific foods that have an impact on your mental health. The positive effects of eating more fruit and vegetables shouldn’t be surprising, but you should also avoid eating red meat. The most positive changes were found from using a Mediterranean-style diet, supplemented with fish oil. If you’re looking for the most positive impact, you should focus on eating vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It might seem like an overwhelming change at first, but the effects of making small adjustments over time.

How Should I Change My Diet?

  • Eat: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Eat-in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Eat only rarely: Red meat.
  • Avoid: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods.

Aside from changing your diet, there are also some immediate benefits to choosing what foods to snack on. Chocolate, for example, can help boost your happiness, focus, and give you a small caffeine burst as well. Snacking on fruits and vegetables when you’re irritated (or “hangry”) can help keep you away from unhealthier processed food. 

Great Snacks To Keep Around For When You’re Feeling Down:

  • Berries
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Vegetable Sticks