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Eating healthily to improve mental health

When it comes to mental health, what you eat can make a big difference. Research shows that a diet rich in foods like fruit, vegetables and seeds helps protect your mental health.

Making healthier food choices will improve your physical and mental health and fitness.

Here are 8 simple tips to help you along the way:

1. Plan ahead

Try making some extra meals to store. You could make enough to last for several days, and freeze them in portions to use at times when you don't feel like cooking.

2. Stop skipping meals

Eating 3 balanced meals a day helps to keep your energy levels steady. Boost your intake of fruit, dairy, wholegrains, nuts and seeds between meals.

3. Start the day right

Breakfast breaks your brain's overnight fast. Start your day with porridge, wholegrain bread or cereal, dairy and fruit. These foods keep essential brain nutrients topped up.

4. Use the Food Pyramid

Becoming familiar with the Food Pyramid will help you plan healthier meals. Base your main meals on wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta or other grains.

Protein supports the production of complex chemical messengers in the brain. Protein foods provide you with nutrients vital for your mental health. Animal-based protein foods, such as fish and eggs, are the only dietary sources of vitamin B12.

5. Get your fats right

The brain runs on glucose but it is mostly made up of fat. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are one of the main sources of omega-3 fats.

6. Eat more fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Add dark green and orange fruit and vegetables to your shopping. Include things like beans and lentils.

7. Drink the right drinks

Dehydration can lead to fuzzy thinking, poor memory and leave you feeling tired. Remember that drinks containing caffeine will act as a strong stimulant. Reduce your caffeine intake. Instead, drink 8-10 cups of water, herbal teas or diluted fruit juice every day. You can also add strawberries or cucumber to your water to make it tastier.

8. Keep a diary

It might take you time to get used to a new eating pattern. Make changes slowly and give yourself time to adjust. Write down what you eat and make notes about how you're feeling in the hours and days thereafter. Over time, you might work out how particular foods make you feel and the impact on your energy or mood.

Read more about the little things you can do to improve your mental health

Read more about "Healthy Food for Life" on the Healthy Ireland website

Read more about the Irish Food Pyramid and other HSE Healthy Eating Guidelines

page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
next review due: 23/09/2021

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