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Mental Health Awareness Week: Mental Health and Nutrition

14th May 2021

It is well known that what we eat impacts our mental health as well as our physical health.

Food and Mood is a popular term that is used commonly world-wide. There are many ways in which food can affect how we feel, just like how we feel can have an effect on what foods we choose to eat.

To keep our mood positive and stable throughout the day requires regular, balanced meals!

Eating a healthy, balanced diet, in accordance with the Eatwell Guide, will provide adequate nutrition to keep your serotonin levels and blood sugars in the healthy range.

Serotonin is made out of protein therefore low dietary protein can result in low serotonin levels. It is synthesised from the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is acquired in the diet. To allow serotonin to be taken up into the brain, insulin (released when starchy food is eaten) must be present, alongside zinc and vitamin C. Low serotonin levels can cause cravings for sweet / starchy foods, depression, migraines/ headaches, sleeping problems, poor memory and concentration problems.

Eating foods such as chicken, turkey, tofu, eggs, fish, milk, cheese and oats, which are good sources of the essential amino acid tryptophan, can help to boost serotonin levels. This is the chemical that helps us to feel happy and controls our mood. Serotonin also influences our appetite, behaviour and thinking.

It is important to eat tryptophan rich foods alongside starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.

Balancing blood sugar levels is also essential for both physical and mental wellbeing:

  • Giving our cells energy to function normally
  • Maintaining a positive frame of mind
  • Having the ability to cope well with stress


Low blood sugar may lead to:

  • Low mood
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Irritability
  • Increased emotional response
  • Decreased concentration
  • Hunger
  • Cravings
  • Urge to binge

Information about Mental Health and Nutrition:

  • Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, delusions and altered beliefs about food can all affect a person’s dietary intake, appetite and weight.
  • Effects of under-nutrition can also lead to difficulties with memory and concentration, and can affect how willing people are to access help.
  • Effects of some vitamin deficiencies can include confusion, depression, anorexia, irritability, anxiety, dementia and psychosis.
  • Dementia can impact upon nutritional status as people find it more difficult to shop, prepare, store and / or ask for food. They might also forget to eat, or that they have eaten, and their tastes or eating habits may change.
  • People on certain medications e.g. for schizophrenia may be prone to weight gain and at increased risk of some medical conditions including diabetes and heart disease.
  • Full nutritional assessment and review is an important part of health and social needs assessment, as is the identification of special nutritional requirements, and those at nutritional risk.

It is well known that what we eat affects our mental health as well as our physical health. Serotonin is a chemical that is released in the brain that makes us feel happy and controls our mood. In addition, serotonin influences our appetite, behaviour and thinking...

For more information please follow the following links: