Food and Mood

Food and Mood

Last week was Healthy Eating Week. The message of the week was ‘Find your healthier you’ which was supported by five main messages: Know the facts / Make a Healthier Choice / Plan for Success / Be the Chef / Keep Moving. The British Nutrition Foundation wants people to reflect on their lifestyle and try to make changes to improve their wellbeing. This week is World Wellbeing Week which offers an opportunity for participants worldwide to promote an overall awareness for the wide-ranging aspects of wellbeing, including social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community and environmental wellbeing.

We’re going to look at the relationship between what you eat and how you feel.

How can food affect wellbeing?

Knowing what to eat isn’t always straight forward with advice seeming to change so frequently. However, evidence suggests that what you eat does not just affect your body physically but can also influence how you feel.

According to, improving your diet may improve your mood, give you more energy and help you to think more clearly.

The mental health charity Mind, which campaigns to improve services and raise awareness of mental health problems, offers the following advice for managing your mood with food, to improve general wellbeing.

How to manage your mood with food

Eat Regularly – If your blood sugar drops you can feel tired, irritable and depressed. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly help to keep your sugar levels steady. Try these slow energy release foods: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.

Staying hydrated – If you don’t drink enough fluid, it can be difficult to concentrate or think clearly. Aim to drink between 6-8 glasses of fluid a day.

Looking after your gut – Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion, you need to have plenty of fibre, fluid and exercise regularly. Include the following foods: fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.

Managing caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. You will find caffeine in tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and other manufactured energy drinks. Try switching to decaffeinated versions or cut down.

Getting 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. Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients. Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced all count towards your 5 a day!

Getting enough protein – Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Protein isn’t just in meat but also fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.

Eating the right fats – Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding fats altogether, it’s important to eat the right ones. Healthy fats are found in oily fish, poultry, nuts, olive and sunflower oils, seeds, avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.

How to Eat Better

It’s clear that what we eat affects our wellbeing, therefore it’s important to make positive changes to the way you eat that can be maintained over time and improve your wellbeing.

Mind also suggests tips for introducing the foods that will improve your mood and to make sustainable changes that will improve your mood.

Take small steps – maintaining changes can be hard, start by introducing small changes rather than switching your whole diet.
Share meals and cooking – cooking with others can be fun and can help to support you in the changes you are making.
Plan ahead – finding time to eat well can be tricky. Why not prepare extra meals when you have the time and freeze them for when you are short of time.
Get professional support – sometimes we need a little help. You can ask your GP to refer you to a dietician or nutritional therapist or visit the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) website to find a practitioner.