Our Food Choices & Mental Health

What role does the food we consume play in our mental health?

The increase of mental illness is alarming. Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) latest statistics highlight that a staggering 20% of the Australian population have experienced a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months. That’s a 5th of the population AND 4.2 million people received a mental health-related prescription 2017- 2018.

Mental health is not one dimensional for most people and requires a multitude of approaches to manage. So, why is nutrition an important part of that management?

Good nutrition is an essential part of mental and physical health. Think of nutrition as the building blocks for our bodies, which also includes our neurotransmitters which are the chemical messengers that carry signals between neurons and nerve cells. Two of the neurotransmitters our body uses to send signals are:

  1. GABA – its function is calming anti-anxiety and improves focus. GABA can improve sleep, anxiety symptoms particularly pre menstral tension (PMT) and perimenopause. To make GABA our body requires specific nutrients such as Taurine, Zinc, B6 these can be found in a healthy

  • B6 -nuts, beans and legumes

  • Zinc- pumpkin seeds, red meat, shellfish, nuts

  • Taurine – fish meat and eggs

2. Serotonin - Low Serotonin can cause, low pain tolerance, depression, anxiety, carbohydrate cravings, low self-esteem and constipation. Serotonin is primarily made in our gut 90 % so when we have an unhealthy gut or disruption to our gut bacteria, this can impact on our ability to produce adequate serotonin. To make serotonin we need:

  • A healthy gut microbiome

  • The amino acid tryptophan which can be found in turkey, milk, kiwi fruit

  • We also need adequate magnesium found in nuts and seeds

It is just the tip of the iceberg as nutrition can support good mental health in many ways, with the rise in mental illness we must use all option available to work together.

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