Skip navigation and jump to content
Welcome to Ireland's Youth Information Website
Follow us
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Snapchat

Accessibility Options

High Contrast Text Size

Healthy eating and mental health

Good nutrition is essential for our mental health

Written by Conor McCreesh and posted in health

Share this article -

I’m sure you’ve heard of eating well to improve heart health, reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers, but did you know a few simple dietary changes may reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is through your gut. Just as the brain impacts the gut, what we put in our gut can impact the functioning of the brain.

Here are some Do’s and Don't's on improving mental health through diet:

It's a good idea to:

  • Stay hydrated - Drinking enough water keeps our brain from having to struggle against the effects of dehydration, allowing us to think more clearly than if we let ourselves get dehydrated. Are you drinking enough water

  • Eat your five a day - Fruit and vegetables contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Easy ways to get your 5 a day

  • Meal plan - Be a planner, decide on a week’s worth of clean eating recipes ahead of time so that you don’t have to rush for fast food. Meal planning made easy  

  • Eat breakfast - Incorporate a healthy breakfast into your routine. If you’re tight on time in the mornings, grab a whole grain granola bar, yogurt and a piece of fruit to get you off to a good start.Breakfast for busy people

  • Eat good fats - Your brain needs fatty oils especially omega-3s and 6s to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones. Oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado are all great sources of healthy, mood-boosting fats.Eat well feel well  

It's best to try to avoid:

  • Eating too much junk - The more processed food and sugary products you eat, the higher your risk of depression.Swap junk food for healthy snacks

  • Skipping meals - This sets your blood sugar levels off and can affect your mood and cause symptoms that feel an awful lot like a panic attack. But when you eat frequent small meals throughout the day, you keep your blood sugar level relatively steady.Cheap and healthy eating tips

  • Drinking too much alcohol - Alcohol offers only empty calories and no nutritional value. In the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. So if you decide to drink alcohol, limit your intake. Drink less gain more

  • Drinking too much coffee - This can make you feel anxious and miserable and also disturb your sleep, so try to limit your coffee intake to avoid these symptoms. Caffeine consumption

  • Eating to relieve stress - This will lead to eating unhealthy junk foods and then getting that feeling of guilt, which can decrease mental health even further. Tips on how to reduce stress

10 feel good foods:  

  1. Spinach - It’s rich in iron and a great energy booster that wards off fatigue and aids concentration. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate, which support the brain’s ability to produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as serotonin.

  2. Sweet potatoes - They’re a great alternative to standard spuds as they are rich in folate, plus they are better than white potatoes at keeping blood sugar levels steady.

  3. Brazil nuts - They’re one of the best sources of the mood-boosting mineral selenium, which can ward off low mood and anxiety.

  4. Oily fish - Fish such as sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help the brain to interpret moods and boost concentration levels. Low levels are linked with depression and other mood disorders.

  5. Avocados - They’re bursting with depression-fighting folate, mood-lifting tryptophan and stress relieving vitamin B6.

  6. Eggs - They’re a great source of zinc, which helps you to feel more alert and energised by regulating your metabolism and blood sugar levels.

  7. Yogurt - It’s rich in calcium, a mineral which can ease mood swings, depression and anxiety.

  8. Tofu - It’s rich in protein, which increases energy levels and improves concentration. It also contains an amino acid called tyrosine, which boosts the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine as well as thyroid hormone, which can all help elevate mood.

  9. Bananas - They can balance hunger and mood between meal energy slumps as they help to stabilise blood sugar levels. The fruit’s high vitamin B6 content can help to relieve anxiety and stress, and it’s also a great source of tryptophan – the essential amino acid the brain converts into happiness hormone serotonin.

  10. Bread - Your daily slice boosts levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps you feel happier and calmer. Wholemeal bread produces less serotonin than white but the energy it produces has more staying power, so you will avoid the slump you can experience soon after eating white bread.

Try to eat two or more of these mood boosters everyday.

Share this article -

Published June 7th, 2017
Last updated December 1st, 2017
Tags mental health healthy eating
Source Mirror - Eat yourself happy
Can this be improved? Contact if you have any suggestions for this article.

Need more information?

Request to speak with a youth worker in your area over the phone, by email or text. They may be able to assist you by providing further information specific to your needs.

Youth Work Ireland - Crosscare - YMCA

Contact via: Phone E-mail Text
By clicking submit you agree to our terms and conditions. ​Please note that this service is run by Youth Work Ireland and Crosscare​.​ E​nquiries are not handled by directly.
Jump to related articles
Was this article helpful?