Guest post on Mental health and healthy eating by Dietitian, Melissa Adamski
Nutrition and Mental Health
Many of us know nutrition is an important factor when it comes to our physical health; it can play a role in our gut health, our heart health and many other areas. But what about our mental health? Can nutrition and diet help us to feel better? Could it potentially be used as part of a treatment plan for mental health conditions such as depression?
To help answer these questions we must first recognise that mental health conditions are very complex; they are complex in their treatment and complex in their development. Usually there will be multiple factors involved in both development and treatment, and so we must not think of nutrition and diet as being a ‘cure’ or single preventative factor when considering our mental health.
However, a good diet with emphasis on a number of key nutrients, may be able to provide support to individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression. If you are interested in using nutrition and diet to support improvement of symptoms, or as a preventative strategy, the first thing to consider is your overall diet – how does this stack up? We know that dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean diet can have significant benefits for health, including mental health. So instead of thinking about what single foods you can add into your diet, consider what your overall diet looks like over a whole week; are there improvements you can make? To help improve your overall diet, there are a few simple steps you can start with:·
Reduce your red meat intake to 2-3 times for week and increase your fish consumption
Make sure you have at least 6 serves of vegetables per day
Include legumes in your meals at least 2-3 times a week
Include more healthy fats in the diet such as extra virgin olive oil and avocados Have a handful of nuts at least once a day
Once you have started to improve your overall diet, you can start to think about specific nutrients and how they may benefit you. Folate, omega 3, zinc and vitamin D are a couple of nutrients associated with improved mental health and there may be benefit in tailoring your diet to focus on these.
What about supplements you ask? To understand whether a supplement is right for you there are a number of factors that come into play when looking to answer this question. Firstly, food has many other components (some known and some unknown), that are not present or able to be replicated in supplements, so in some instances there may be more benefits from foods. However, it all depends on your condition and what you are trying to improve- you may need to have nutrients at an amount not possible to achieve through foods alone and supplements may play a role and be beneficial.
Overall, nutrition and diet are very important to consider in both the management and prevention of mental health conditions. It is important to seek advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian to understand how you can make changes to your diet that are specifically right for you. It is also important to involve your treating psychologist – a team approach can help ensure you are getting the most appropriate advice and best results.
Melissa Adamski is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and nutritionist; her private practice, Nutted Out Nutrition, provides appointments in Melbourne CBD and the eastern suburbs. Nutted Out Nutrition believes nutrition and diet are fundamental components of good health and work with clients to personalise nutrition recommendations to help ensure they are useful and achievable. More information can be obtained from www.nuttedoutnutrition.com.au