5 easy diet changes that can improve your mental health

Happy eating woman mental health
A nutritionist has revealed some simple foods to add to your diet to support your mental health. (Getty Images)

The food we eat is essential to every aspect of our wellbeing – both physical and mental health.

In fact, studies have found that people who eat a diet high in fruit, vegetables, seafood and unprocessed grains have a 25% to 35% lower risk of depression compared to those who eat a western diet, which is characterised as high sugar, high fat, and filled with ultra-processed foods.

"Many people don’t realise the link between food and mental wellbeing," Signe Svanfeldt, lead nutritionist at Lifesum, says. "A nutritious, balanced diet positively impacts our energy and mood, as well as our gut microbiota, which influences our mental wellbeing."

However, it can be overwhelming trying to decipher exactly what we should be eating to better support our mental health – which is why Svanfeldt has revealed five simple diet changes you can make to boost your mood.

Increase prebiotic intake

Prebiotic foods: Broccoli, spinach, carrots, oats, quinoa, brown rice, beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Prebiotics and probiotics can reduce inflammation, Svanfeldt explains, which can boost the levels of serotonin in the body which is the neurotransmitter that regulates mood and lowers symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Winter breakfast concept. Overnight oatmeal with banana, berry, chia seeds, sesame tahini, cinnamon and syrup in bowl, top view, dark background.
Oats are a great source of prebiotics. (Getty Images)

Eat more probiotic foods

Probiotic foods: Sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sourdough bread.

"Our guts love probiotics, as they help to regulate the composition and activity of gut microbiome, which can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhance stress resilience," Svanfeldt says.

Add Omega-3s to our diet

Omega-3 foods: Flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, salmon, trout and tuna.

Omega-3s are healthy fats that have been show to reduce inflammation on the brain that has been linked to mood disorders, which means they can help to improve wellbeing, Svanfeldt says.

Consume more polyphenols

Polyphenol foods: Apples, grapes, kiwi fruit, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, peppers, red cabbage and spinach.

"Polyphenols promote healthy blood flow to the brain and can protect it from oxidative stress and inflammation," Svanfeldt says. "This may affect mental health, by reducing depressive symptoms and increasing overall mental wellbeing."

Vegan Sweet Potato Chickpea curry in wooden bowl on a light background, top view, copy space. Healthy vegetarian food concept.
Foods like chickpeas, sweet potato, and spinach are all beneficial for your mental health. (Getty Images)

Increase complex carb intake

Complex carb foods: Oats, barley, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, beetroot, carrots, parsnip, beans and lentils.

"Complex carbohydrates (those high in fibre) may support gut health, digestion and provide our bodies with essential nutrients which can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety," Svanfeldt explains.

"What you eat today will either empower or deplete your mental health tomorrow."

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