Health + Fitness

Seven Foods To Boost Your Mental Health

by Rosie McKay

Did you know what you eat is vital to keeping your mental health in check? Here are seven mood-boosting foods to add to your diet now...

As we navigate this journey called life, it's inevitable we will face a series of highs and lows. In fact, research shows, one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. For many of us - even the normally happiest of people - dealing with high-stress situations or difficult times can lead to depression or bring on anxiety. Just last week, Aussie model Miranda Kerr, 33, revealed she plunged into a deep depression following her split from husband Orlando Bloom, saying 'I felt like I'd really never understood that level of sadness existed, but it did.' 

For most, these dark times come and go, but for others it's a constant battle. Sadly there is no cure-all for sufferers of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but what you fuel your body with can definitely make all the difference, and a healthy, balanced diet can go a long way to improving your mental and physical well-being.

 That’s why Aussie foodie, personal trainer, and mental health advocate, Judy Phillips has re-released her book, Good Life Great Food: Recipes for Loving and Sharing, filled with great mood-boosting meals to share with loved ones, with ALL proceeds going to The Black Dog Institute, a vital organisation for the thousands of Australians and their loved ones tackling mental health issues every day. 

Mental illness is best handled with the support of family, friends, and professionals, but there are also small steps individuals can take to encourage a happy, healthy mind, and one of those is eating mood-boosting foods and enjoying them in good company,” says Judy.

 “Staying true to my passion for mental health, many of my recipes are based on fresh, healthy, mood boosting, whole-food ingredients such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy and green leafy vegetables, all of which are bursting with vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are known to foster a healthy mind (1).”

 Here, Judy shares her top seven mood-boosting foods and some great recipes  from her book that you can incorporate into your daily dining:

1. Avocado

Avocados have been getting a bad write-up lately thanks to their hefty price tag, but these buttery delights are rich in monounsaturated fats which help blood flow to the brain, says Judy, who recommends her Avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and bread salad. Get the RECIPE.

See Need Want Mood Boosting Foods Avocado Cucumber Tomato Bread Salad Recipe
2. Yoghurt

Yoghurt and other fermented foods contain loads of healthy bacteria, (probiotics) essential in maintaining a healthy gut. One recent study reduced the anxiety levels in mice just by giving them yoghurt bacteria. “There is growing literature showing a strong correlation between gut health and mental well-being,” says Judy, who suggests trying her Berry Yoghurt Trifle. Get the RECIPE.

See Need Want Mood Boosting Foods Yogurt Berry Trifle Recipe
Credit: [1] T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, M. R. Asha,1 B. N. Ramesh,2 and K. S. Jagannatha Rao. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/ , [2] J. A Bravo et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Available from: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/38/16050, Image courtesy of Deuxsenses
3. Beetroot

Judy says this red ripper is hard to ‘beet’!  “Like broccoli, beetroot is high in folic acid as well as fibre, manganese and potassium.” She suggests doubling up the goodness by also including brain-boosting walnuts with her Roast beetroot and walnut salad. Get the RECIPE.

See Need Want Mood Boosting Foods Roast Beetroot And Walnut Salad Recipe
4. Apples

An apple a day…It might not keep the doctor away but according to researchers at Cornell University the chemicals found in apples and their skins can help protect the delicate neurons in your brain. “Sometimes it’s also nice to share a really delicious warm dessert with friends. The smell alone will brighten up your day!” Judy says. Throw in a few more feel-good walnuts then put an Apple stuffed with walnuts and dates into your oven. Get the RECIPE.

See Need Want Mood Boosting Foods Baked Apple Stuffed Walnuts Dates Recipe
5. Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, ocean trout, seaweed and walnuts, are essential for healthy brain function. And important feel-good chemicals are made in healthy, happy brains. Try Judy’s Salmon ceviche salad. Get the RECIPE.

See Need Want Mood Boosting Foods Ceviche Salad Recipe
6. Broccolini

It’s no surprise that greens are good for you, but broccoli and broccolini are among the high achievers thanks to their folic acid and other nutrients important for mood regulation, energy and quality sleep. Judy recommends trying her Broccolini and Beans with Tahini Tamari Sauce.

7. Chicken / Egg

“Chicken or the egg? It doesn’t matter which one comes first… just make sure you eat them!” Judy says. “Chicken, eggs, turkey and fish are all good proteins that provide the building blocks for a healthy nervous system.” Make your mind and taste buds happy with a Chicken and Olive Tagine. Get the RECIPE.

See Need Want Mood Boosting Foods Chicken And Olive Tagine Recipe

Recipes for all dishes mentioned above are detailed in Life Great Food: Recipes for Loving and Sharing (RRP $35), which can be purchased at selected bookstores or online at www.judyphillips.com.au.


See Need Want Good Life Great Food Judy Phillips
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