Most people know that eating well can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid or minimise many health problems. Did you know that your diet can also have an effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing?
There is a growing body of research that even links diet with mental health. Specifically, a healthy diet is associated with reduced risk of mental health conditions.
For example, recent studies have identified that eating a diet containing a lot of processed meats, packaged meals, takeout food, and sugary snacks are associated with higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
What you eat matters
Many studies worldwide have shown that there's a link between diet and mental health. But this research is still in early stages, so we don't know unequivocally if unhealthy foods actually cause illnesses such as depression.
There is strong evidence that high intakes of fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains may be associated with a reduced depression risk. The available evidence shows that people who eat an overall healthy diet – that is one including lots of fresh, unprocessed and nutrient-dense foods – tend to have better mental health.
Balance is the key
While some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, it’s your overall dietary pattern that is most important. That means switching to a healthy diet doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.
You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet and make a difference to the way you think and feel.
It is important to remember that there are many risk factors that cause mental illness, including many we have no control over, such as genetics, childhood trauma and socio-economic standing. However, you can control what you choose to eat and for some people this can make a difference.
If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you’d like help implementing a healthier diet, make an appointment with your EAP by contacting 1800 629 277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Jacka, F., Sacks, G., Berk, M., Allender, S.; Food policies for physical and mental health BMC Psychiatry. Epub 2014 May 9.
 Lai JS1, Hiles S, Bisquera A, Hure AJ, McEvoy M, Attia J.; A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;99(1):181-97. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.069880. Epub 2013 Nov 6.
 Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T. N., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sergentanis, I. N., Kosti, R. and Scarmeas, N. (2013), Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Ann Neurol., 74: 580–591. doi: 10.1002/ana.23944