The Best Diet for Mental Health: Foods to Avoid and Foods to Eat

If you're looking to improve your mental health, it's essential to pay attention to what you eat. Consuming a lot of processed meats, fried foods, refined cereals, candies, pastries, and high-fat dairy products can make you feel anxious and depressed. On the other hand, a diet rich in fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish can help you stay more balanced. To get the most out of your diet, focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables along with foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon.

Dark green leafy vegetables are especially beneficial for the brain. Nuts, seeds, and legumes like beans and lentils are also great brain foods. Frying anything may make it taste better, but it's not good for your body or your mental health. Fried foods contain high levels of unhealthy fats and sodium which have been linked to mood swings, irritability, and decreased energy levels.

To keep your mood stable, try to avoid fried and breaded foods as much as possible. It's also important to be aware of artificial sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet'N Low) and sucralose (Splenda). Studies have shown that these sweeteners can cause chronically elevated insulin levels which increase the risk of depression, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. They are also associated with metabolic syndrome and may contribute to obesity which can influence mental health problems.

In addition, artificial sweeteners may induce pro-inflammatory changes in gut bacteria and in the immune reactivity of the intestinal wall in people with chronic inflammatory digestive disorders. This can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. Finally, it's important to keep your blood sugar levels stable by eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly. Avoiding foods high in flour and sugar will help train your brain to want more nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables instead.

For more information on how to improve your mental health through diet, visit the British Dietetic Association website to read its variety of food fact sheets.