Diet and Mental Health 

When people discover I work with people who have mental health issues as a nutritionist I’m almost always asked: “Does what we eat affect our mood?” 

It is becoming more accepted that it does, and I often use the example of a sugar rush, which creates a momentary sense of euphoria before wearing out with a crash. We often use food to subconsciously change how we feel. However, it is relatively new that the connection between organs such as our gut and brain and the effect on our mood is being explored. 

 

Connecting the Dots 

I try to help people to eat more consciously, so they can respond to what they need and what suits them as an individual. How we eat and what we eat is often not the centre point of our day and I try to steer my clients to be more engaged in what balance means for them. We focus on looking at the root causes of their concerns and health issues and help­ing them with an eating plan that will support this. 

 

Go With Your Gut  

If you are anxious and struggle with insomnia, for example, there is a strong likelihood this is related to your gut microbiome. Making certain changes such as removing trigger foods, decreasing the omega 6 to 3 ratio in your diet, or simply increasing the amount of protein and fibre in your diet can make a big difference. Increasing foods rich in magnesium and omega 3 can have a noticeable effect as well. I will also combine diet advice with lifestyle analysis by looking at other areas of a person’s life and suggesting ways of reducing stress and increasing joy. This can be as simple as a walk in nature or simply turning off their phone 2 hours before bed! 

 

Everything is Connected 

In addition to steering people towards conscious eating, I also remind them about the interconnectedness of their bodies. If one system is out of balance there is a strong likeli­hood this has an impact elsewhere - when our blood sugars are out of balance, for instance, this will affect our hormones, and potentially our cortisol levels and immune system.

Then there is the quality and quantity of the food we buy and how this is linked to our environment - as a city dweller, finding local vegetables and meat/fish can be harder than in the countryside. Understanding the value of good quality food is a cornerstone of holistic health. Buying food that is organic, in-season, and locally grown is hugely ad­vantageous not only in terms of taste and texture but also in how it will affect our mood. Everything is interconnected.


Tomato Rice Soup With Turkey Meatballs

I like this recipe because it is quick and easy. Turkey is a source of protein and tryptophan. Tryptophan is the calming neurotransmitter that helps with sleep and relaxation as well as being the precursor to the all-important serotonin. If you prefer, you can use chicken or other sources of protein. This recipe also contains minerals such as selenium and zinc and vitamin B3 and B6, both co-factors and coenzymes in several metabolic pathways that help with immune function and relaxation. The brown rice also provides tryptophan, selenium and magnesium. 

INGREDIENTS

250 g minced turkey
3 heaped tbsp rice (I used brown)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion
1 red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves 
1 red chilli pepper
2 tomatoes chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
500 ml chicken stock

Season the mince with sea
salt, pepper and smoked
paprika- shape into walnut
size balls.

METHOD

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan.

Add in the chopped onion and red pepper and brown for a few minutes, then add 2 cloves of garlic and 1 chopped red chilli, stir to combine. Add the rice and cook for 2/3 mins, then add the fresh chopped tomatoes. Cook over a low heat until softened and add a can of chopped tomatoes. Pour in 500 ml of chicken stock, bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 mins approx (my rice took 25 minutes to cook through).

Meanwhile, fry the turkey balls for a few minutes to give them some colour. Return them to the soup to heat through. Depending on the consistency, you may need to add a little more liquid to the soup.

Divide between bowls, sprinkle with parsley or basil and enjoy!