Food and Mood
Eating healthy, nutritious food is beneficial to both our mental and physical health. But knowing what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating can be confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat can also affect the way we feel. A good diet can help to improve our mood, give us more energy and help us think more clearly.
We’ve compiled some top tips that we hope will help in maintaining a healthy diet to best support both your physical and mental health:
Nutrition Myth Busting
“Low-fat foods are healthier”
Fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. There are many different types of fat in the food we consume, such as saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are the type that raise blood cholesterol and are found in biscuits, cakes, and processed meats. On the other hand, unsaturated fats have been shown to lower the risk of the development of cardiovascular disease, and are found in nuts, seeds, and plant oils. Since the body does not make this type of fat on its own, it must be consumed through the diet. Unsaturated fat helps the body absorb vitamins, helps with muscle movement and lowers cholesterol levels.
“Fruit is bad for me because it has too much sugar”
Whole, unprocessed fruit contains two types of sugar: fructose and glucose, which are both a source of energy for the cells and are part of a healthy diet. Fruit is also rich in fibre as well as a range of different vitamins and minerals. However, it is important to remember that whole fruits are always a better choice than packaged or processed fruits such as fruit juices, which contain large amounts of refined and added sugars.
“Salt is bad for me”
Salt is an important nutrient for the human body. The body uses salt to maintain healthy blood pressure and to ensure correct nerve and muscle function. However, adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (around 1 teaspoon). Eating more than this over time can contribute to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and heart failure.
Special Nutrient Needs of Older Adults
As a person gets older, they naturally begin to lose bodyweight and muscle mass, resulting in calories being burned at a lower rate (a lower metabolism). This may be due to loss of appetite (which is normal!) because as a person gets older, they most likely will not be as physically active as before. The body will then adapt and lower the overall food intake. However, maintaining a healthy bodyweight is very important to ensure that the body gets all the energy and nutrients it needs
Tips for a low appetite include eating smaller more frequent meals, increasing your intake of nutritious yet energy-dense snacks and eating in a social setting such as at a lunch club.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in human health and is needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Vitamin D deficiency may drastically impact a person’s physical and mental well-being.
Good sources of Vitamin D include sunlight, cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon and fortified milk
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between the ages of 45-55.
Menopausal symptoms, such as weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats and low mood can last around 4 years after their last period. There are however things you can do to help the symptoms of menopause:
- Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, coffee and spicy foods because they heavily contribute to setting off hot flushes.
- Increased intake of phyto-oestrogens may also educe the occurrence of hot flushes. Phyto-oestrogens are found in soya milk, linseeds, tofu, tempeh, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
- Increase your intake of complex carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta. These will help you feel fuller for longer, and, therefore, reduce weight gain.
- Increase your intake of Vitamin D and Omega-3, for example, by eating oilier fish such as salmon. This can help boost your mood.
For more tips and resources, download volunteer Bila’s leaflet:
If you’re over 55 and would like support with food budgeting, nutrition, mental and physical wellbeing, join our FREE Wellbeing in Over 55s workshop!
Water and Mental Health
There is a close relationship between hydration and mental health. This is because mental health is driven primarily by the brain and insufficient water consumption may result in brain function slowing down. Dehydration can lead to increased feelings of confusion and increased fatigue, as well as an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression.
Tips to help improve hydration:
- Aim to drink 6-8 glasses a day – this includes tea and sugar-free drinks
- Add flavour to your drink, e.g. fruits, veggies or herbs
- Eat water-rich foods, e.g. cucumber and lettuce
- Use a marked water bottle, keep it close and sip throughout the day
- Set a reminder on your phone, eg. through a water tracking app or on the alarm app
Physical Activity and Mental Health
The physical benefits of exercise, such as weight loss and increased energy, are commonly talked about. However, research has also shown that physical activity positively affects a person’s mental health. Psychological benefits of physical activity include a reduction in stress levels, better sleep quality, a reduction in feelings of depression and anxiety, and improved overall brain performance.
Sleep and Mental Health
Sleep and mental health are very closely linked. Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Tips for improved sleep:
- Reduce bedroom distractions, e.g. televisions, mobile phones and bright lights
- Avoid substances that discourage sleep, e.g. alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
- Keep a regular sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at similar times every day
- Move your body during daylight hours. People who exercise regularly fall asleep faster and report
better quality of sleep
- Avoid eating a large meal before sleep as this can cause hormone disruption
You can find some more top tips on healthy sleeping habits here.
B&NES Food Clubs and Pantries
A non-exhaustive list of organisations providing affordable or free food or emergency food parcels for those in crisis.
FoodCycle Bath offers a free three course vegetarian meal at 7:30 pm each Wednesday. There is no need to book – just turn up and you will be welcomed with no questions asked!
Address: Nexus Methodist Church, Nelson Place, BA1 5DA
Community Wellbeing Hub
As a resident of B&NES, you can contact Bath’s Community Wellbeing Hub if you require an emergency food parcel to be delivered to you.
Email: [email protected]
Bath Foodbank runs a delivery service. Deliveries are made on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to people in the BA1 and BA2 postcodes. Call or email Bath Foodbank to be issued an ‘e-voucher’.
Email: [email protected]
Mercy In Action / Fareshare Pantry
Mercy In Action provide food that is oversupply from production for their food pantry. By paying £3 to become an Action Pantry member you will be able to go and choose food to suit your needs. Call to
Address: Jubilee Centre, Lower Bristol
Road, BA2 9ES
Clean Slate offer budgeting, banking and jobhunting support as well as helping people get better access to the internet to help organise their finances and find work. Call, email or just walk in to their Bath centre (below) to speak to someone.
Email: [email protected]
Address (Mondays 10:30am-13:30): Bath Library, 9-23 The Podium, BA1 5AN
A huge thank you to our volunteer Bila for your research and dedication in creating information on food and mood for our website users.
If you’re interested in joining a nutrition wellbeing group, our Food for Thought group runs cookery workshops, lunch clubs and event catering. Find out more here.
If you are experiencing difficulties with food and your mood, or if you would like to discuss your wellbeing, you can reach out to us in confidence – our details can be found here.