Last reviewed by Raj Kundhi, BSc Nutrition, Food and Health & Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) in March 2020.
Feeling well, both physically and mentally depends on having a varied, well-balanced diet that includes all of the essential nutrients our body and mind need to function at their best. If we deprive our body of any of these nutrients, we create a nutritional imbalance that can have negative psychological and physical effects.
This is why fad diets - ones that omit a particular food group or are too extreme in terms of calorie reduction, for example, can lead to some people complaining of feelings of depression or lethargy.
By following a few simple dietary rules, we can help prevent feelings of lethargy, irritability and low mood:
Don’t skip meals. Eating regularly keeps your blood sugar levels stable and you're less likely to feel dips in your mood and energy levels. Carbohydrate-rich foods that contain B vitamins can help boost nervous energy. Choose low glycaemic-index (GI) carbs, such as seeded bread, whole-wheat pasta, porridge, beans, lentils, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Eat breakfast. When you sleep your body uses energy to repair and recuperate cells, so when you wake up your energy stores are nearly empty! Fuelling yourself well in the morning helps to kick-start your metabolism and recharges your batteries. Choose foods that are high in fibre and protein, and low in sugar. Protein helps to balance your blood sugar levels to keep you fuller for longer. Eggs, and natural or Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts provide an excellent protein punch to start your day! Or choose a wholegrain cereal or wholegrain bread with some fruit or fruit juice.
Have a varied diet. If you eat a variety of foods, you’re more likely to get a full range of vitamins and minerals. This helps your body to work at its best, and gives you a feeling of wellbeing.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel tired and affect your ability to concentrate or think clearly. Although we should all drink plenty of fluids every day (aim for 1.5-2 litres), water doesn’t just have to come from the tap. There are lots of ways to make sure your body keeps topped up, for example, fruit and vegetables have high water content, as do diary products like yogurt and cottage cheese. Tea and coffee count, but try to avoid too much caffeine as it can act as a diuretic, as well as impair your sleep.
If plain water isn’t for you - why not try herbal tea, or fruit-infused water. Lemon, mint, cucumber and fresh orange slices make tasty and healthy alternative to sugary cordials.
Good-mood good guys!
A good-mood diet is one that includes a full range of nutrients, eaten in moderation, from the five major food groups:
- Starchy foods, such as rice, potatoes, and wholemeal bread and pasta.
- Fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day).
- Protein, such as meat, fish, beans and eggs.
- Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Oils and spreads – choose healthier, unsaturated fat products where possible (too many saturates have been found to raise levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood).
Food is your body’s fuel, whether you are a busy parent preparing your family’s dinner or an athlete training for a special event - what you put in your body is essential to good health! Visit our diet and nutrition centre for more information and no-fuss feel-good recipes to try at home.
A good-mood diet is one that encompasses the full range of nutrients from the five major food groups: starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and wholemeal bread and pasta; fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day); protein like meat, fish, beans and eggs; dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt; and sugar and fat (choose healthier, unsaturated fat products).
Within these food groups, there are certain vitamins and minerals that research suggests have a particularly important influence on our mood and energy levels:
- B vitamins.You need B vitamins for nervous energy. A deficiency can make you feel depressed or irritable. You get these good guys from yeast extracts, wholegrains and fortified breakfast cereals – check food labels.
- Iron. A lack of iron can make you feel lethargic, so choose lean red meat, canned fish and liver. Bread and some breakfast cereals are also fortified with iron and can be a useful source for vegetarians. If you are vegetarian, don’t drink tea with your meals as this reduces the absorption of iron from food. Try fruit juice instead – the vitamin C enhances iron absorption.
- Glucose. Feeling good comes from a diet that gives you a steady supply of glucose, so you need to have a regular intake of low-glycaemic carbohydrates. Choose moderate amounts of pasta, beans, lentils, bulgur wheat, seeded or granary breads, and fruit and vegetables.
- Selenium. This has been shown to reduce feelings of negative mood and depression. Good food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, fish and eggs. Walnuts and Brazil nuts also provide potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.
- Folate. Studies have also suggested that having insufficient folate in your diet can increase your chances of feeling low. You get folate from liver, green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, yeast extract and breakfast cereals.