The Strong Relation between Food and Mental Well-Being

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This means “tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” It is also cited as the origin of the famous saying “you are what you eat.” With the passage of time, it turns out that this old saying is quite true especially as far as your mood is concerned.

Today, experts are including food modifications to address physical and mental health problems. Many evidence-based researches have published which proves that certain foods help improves your mood, whereas others can make it worse. Though the research regarding dietary choices and clinical depression is still inconclusive but there have been hints that food may play a significant role in depression.

Lets’ see what happens actually! Food nutrients affect brain chemicals which in result impact human psyche, cognitive functions and mood. Though it’s still not possible to tease out a single food that largely affects our mood nonetheless there are several nutrients which can create an impact on mood changes.

Below are the important food nutrients which can affect your mood and mental health.


It has been believed that carbohydrates are the biggest bad mood culprits. Refined flour, white rice and crackers contain simple sugar that brings abrupt changes in blood sugar level.. This badly affects mood. However, it’s not a good idea to banish carbohydrates completely. Just choose the smart ones (complex carbohydrates), because researches have proved that a very low carbohydrate diet (ketogenic) results in fatigue and low motivation in adults within two weeks. In addition to that carbohydrates boost the production of tryptophan (a non- essential amino acid). This results in increased synthesize of serotonin (a mood regulator) in the brain and mood tends to improve.

Healthy (complex) carbohydrates choices include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.

food and mental well-being - marham

Vitamin D:

Women who have more vitamin D rich foods are at a lower risk of developing depression as compared to those who got less vitamin D. it may also help relieve seasonal affective disorder commonly known as SAD. Sunlight, low-fat milk, egg yolks and soymilk are the best source of vitamin D.

Vitamin B-9 or folic acid:

Vitamin B9 not only encourages normal nerve and proper brain functioning, but it also helps support adrenal function, calm and maintain a healthy nervous system. To get folic acid naturally try to incorporate broccoli, lentils, oatmeals, oranges, bananas, yeasts and dark leafy vegetables in your food.

Vitamin B-12:

Low level of vitamin B-12 has been linked to mood changes and brain functioning. Having a vitamin B 12 supplements may help relieve the symptoms. But it should be remembered that mood disorders and dementia have several other reasons, and these factors should also be focused on and addressed. Food rich in vitamin B12 includes cottage cheeses lean beef and salmon.


Proteins contain amino acids, which make up different chemicals at your brain, helps to regulate your mood and clear thinking. It also slows the absorption of carbohydrates in your blood and increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine which in turns improves mood and energy for several hours after eating. Smart protein choices include lean meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, legumes and cheese.

food and mental well-being - marham

Omega 3 fatty acid:

Researches have proved that the rate of depression has risen as our intake of omega 3 fatty acids has decreased from the last 50 to 100 years. They seem to have an essential role in healthy brain functioning, heart health and healthy brain development in a fetus during pregnancy. They may help in some aspects of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, whereas low levels of omega 3 fatty acids are associated with suicide and self-harm. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include fatty fish, flex seed and walnuts.


It helps promote energy, support sleep, maintains blood sugar and hormone level. Food rich in magnesium includes almond spinach, pumpkin seeds etc.

Above are some import nutrient groups which can affect your mood. But it should be remembered, they are only for general good physical and mental wellbeing and not at all substitute of any psychiatric drug or psychotherapy.

Here are some guidelines for mood maintenance

  • Eat often enough
  • Try to eat at regular intervals, it helps in maintaining a continuous source of energy in the body and this may assists in mood stability.
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Skipping meals can make you feel too hungry and thus results in irritability and frustration. To avoid such bad mood try not to skip any meal. Besides a bad mood, it also makes you more liable to eat more food at your next meal.
  • Eat a balanced breakfast.
  • Skipping breakfast makes us irritable, fatigued and anxious throughout the day. It’s better to have a healthy and balanced breakfast as it improves mood, and enhance memory.
  • Avoid excess intake of caffeine.
  • Caffeine is safe in low to moderate doses. High daily intake of 1000 mg per day may cause agitation, tension, restlessness worsen depression, and exacerbate anxiety.
  • Caffeine helps people to stay awake but a large amount of it makes it difficult to get restorative sleep and thus increase insomnia.
  • Reduce use of processed food – Processed food not only increases waistline but also badly affects one’s physical and mental health. It leads to insulin imbalance and inflammation, both of these effects psychological wellbeing by increasing irritability, psychological distress and depression.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water. Low water intake led to the bad mood, irritability, confusion, and headache.

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Farwah Tirmizi
Farwa Tirmizi is a practicing clinical psychologist and currently she is pursuing her ms top up in clinical psychology. She is an avid reader and interested in topics related to psycho-spiritual growth of mankind.

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