Thursday, 8th June 2023

Your diet can affect your mental health

By Lanre Olusola
05 July 2018   |   4:23 am
Daniel was an overweight child. He was nicknamed the ‘Fat Kid’ in school, and grew worse over the years. He had a low self-esteem and saw constant eating as his ‘peace’.

Daniel was an overweight child. He was nicknamed the ‘Fat Kid’ in school, and grew worse over the years. He had a low self-esteem and saw constant eating as his ‘peace’. He fell into depression, and turned to food for comfort. His family members tried to help with his eating dysfunction, but he would hide these snacks, and eat them when no one is watching. Soon he was diagnosed with heart disease, Diabetes and High blood pressure. Daniel needed help, not just with his weight gain, but first, with his mindset towards food; then his diet.

Can what you eat affect your mental health?
Research findings reveal that a nutritious diet isn’t just good for the body; it is great for the brain too. This knowledge is giving rise to a concept called “nutritional (or food) psychiatry”. A very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety. Traditionally, we have not been trained to ask about food and nutrition. By shaping your diets, you can improve your mental health and decrease the risk of psychiatric disorders.

If you eat a sweet snack, such as a chocolate or a sugary donut, you will get a spike of energy which is soon followed by a crashing low energy. Sugar highs and lows are just one of the many ways food can affect how you feel.
Three ways diet impacts your mental health:

Here are some more details on how good nutrition impacts mental health:

1. It’s crucial for mental development: We are, quite literally, what we eat. When we eat real food that nourishes us, it develops the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.

2. It puts the brain into grow mode: Certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance. On the other hand, a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins.

3. It fills the gut with healthy bacteria: And that’s good for the brain. Trillions of good bacteria live in the gut. They fend off bad germs and keep your immune system in check, which means they help tame inflammation in the body. Foods with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) help maintain a healthy gut environment. A high-fat or high-sugar diet is bad for gut health and therefore, your brain.

Five foods that keep the mind working at its best:
1. Lean Protein: Adding protein to your meals can help slow the absorption of carbohydrates in your blood and increase the release of Dopamine, which can improve your mood and energy for several hours after eating. Try adding these smart protein choices to your diet: Eggs, Poultry, Seafood and Low-fat yogurt.

2. Vitamins: There are a few specific vitamins that are helpful for mood. For example, vitamin D helps relieve mood disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder. To get your daily dose of vitamin D, you can also try the following foods: Low-fat milk, Egg yolks and Soymilk. Early morning Sunlight is also important as well as this is a natural source of Vitamin D.

3. Whole Grains: The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates aggravate low mood by creating spikes in blood sugar and have been shown to have effects on the brain similar to drugs of abuse. In contrast, complex carbohydrates release glucose slowly, helping us feel full longer and providing a steady source of fuel for the brain and body. Healthy sources of complex carbohydrates include: whole-wheat products, oats, beans and soy.

4. Fish: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild cold water fish (e.g. salmon, sardines and mackerel), seaweed and walnuts, have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mental disorders. This is likely because of the effect omega-3s has on the production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals responsible for our moods), such as: Dopamine and Serotonin.

5. Leafy Greens: Your green vegetables are very important. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are high in folic acid. Deficiencies in folate as well as other B vitamins have been linked with higher rates of depression, fatigue and insomnia.
It is important to know how what you eat, can affect your mental health. By working with Daniel on ways to live healthy which involved exercise, emotional intelligence, healthy eating, positive affirmations and increasing his dose of D.O.S.E (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin), he was able to work on his excessive weight gain, and live a healthy and happy life.

A good percentage of actions we take start from the mind. You have to train your mind to be stronger than your emotions, or else you will lose yourself every time.

Learn to master your emotions by signing up for the Emotional Intelligence Masterclass, which takes place from the 20th to 22nd of July, 2018. Call us on 08077077000 or send an email to for further enquiries. To stay motivated and have a positive mindset, get a copy of “Affirmations” on