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Let's talk mental health and diet

6 February saw Time to Talk day across the UK, which has been designed to encourage everyone to open up about mental health and actively talk, listen and change lives. It's a great day to break down the barriers and fight stigmas associated with mental health. 

We thought we'd use this as a chance to talk about the role your diet plays and how you can gain the most out of what you eat for a positive mindset. 

Managing diet gives the body and the brain essential nutrients and vitamins that improve energy, mood, and productivity which in turn can reduce stress and anxiety.

Evidence from Psychology Today suggests that a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can lead to an increase in happiness, and even reduce symptoms of depression.

Specifically, vitamin B12 deficiency is frequently linked to creating symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, depression and poor memory, so eat lots of eggs and salmon to prevent this. 

Reducing or cutting out sugar completely has also been suggested to help balance moods, as too much sugar can decrease a protein in the brain related to the development of depression and anxiety. There is also evidence to suggest poor gut health can lead to an increased level of anxiety, so ensure you're getting adequate amounts of fibre. 

Further foods to avoid are those that make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly, such as biscuits, sugary drinks and alcohol. Not drinking enough water is another contributor to mental wellbeing, as dehydration can lead to a lack of concentration or the ability to process thoughts clearly. 

Caffeine, unsurprisingly, is not great for the mindset, as it provides a burst of energy that quickly dissipates, leaving many with a feeling of anxiousness. Switch to a decaffeinated drink, or opt for hot water with a splash of lemon and honey. 

The Mental Health Foundation advises that “good nutrition is essential for our mental health and that a number of mental health conditions may be influenced by dietary factors”, however stated that “changing lifestyles and increasing access to processed foods, mean that our intake of fresh, nutritious, local produce is much lower”.

While there is evidence to show us that a healthy choice might lead to a healthier mindset, busier lives and changing lifestyles have forced people to make choices based on convenience. And when convenience outweighs healthiness, the end result might be severely lacking in adequate nutrition. 

So when it comes to eating well, aim to be consistent, opt for health over convenience, and don't be too hard on yourself.