Food For Mood

Mood food is gaining popularity as an alternative to drugs to beat mental illness.

Nutritional psychiatry is being offered to people with a mental illness as an alternative to anti-depressants.

Joyce Cavaye, a senior lecturer in Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University wrote an article called ‘Why Nutritional Psychiatry is the Future of Mental health treatment’ in the Independent newspaper.

Her research revealed that in England, 65m antidepressant prescriptions were issued 2016, costing £266.6m.

And the statistics for young people in Scotland are even more dramatic.

In Scotland, 5,572 children under 18 were prescribed antidepressants for anxiety and depression in 2016. This figure has more than doubled since 2009-2010.

Amy Hunt, (26), a freelance writer from Birmingham turned to healthy eating following her eating disorder in her late teens.


She said: “I made changes because I found myself in a very dark and unproductive place and I wanted better for myself and the relationships around me, including my relationship with food.”

Previously eating lots of the typical ‘English foods’, Amy substituted the shepherd’s pies and roast dinners for berries, crushed nuts and seeds.

Amy explained: “I only really overcame my mental health issues when I started looking after my health and my body more.

“I feel more positive, energised and motivated to do more with my day.”

Luke Coutinho, an alternative medicine and holistic nutritionist and author of ‘The Great Indian Diet’ (2014) has written about the changes that take place in the brain after eating certain foods.

He said in an article for ‘The Quint’: “Without the right nutrition, the brain cannot produce neurotransmitters or neurochemicals like serotonin or dopamine, that are responsible for mood, social behaviour, appetite, memory and even boosting libido.”

Low levels of the serotonin are linked to mental health issues such as depression.

Since making healthy swaps in her diet, Amy has seen a drastic change.

She explained: “I find myself getting up earlier with more energy and wanting to be more productive with that time.

“I put this down to having the right food in my body as your body fuels your hormones which helps sleep and body function, both linked to positive mental health.”


© Tammie Beech

Amy’s advice to start eating well to improve mental health is to ‘just do it’ by looking at the foods you already eat and replace a few ingredients for healthier choices, with things such as sprouts, fruits, lentils or shredded veg such as carrot or cabbage.

She added: “Look at your health as an investment; why put the wrong things into your precious body?”


The Healthline website says: “Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan which must be entered into the body through diet.”

It is a ‘neurotransmitter’ – a brain chemical – that is actually produced in the digestive tract. That’s why food is so important.

Foods such as eggs, cheese, pineapples, nuts and seeds are thought to have high levels of tryptophan in them to boost serotonin levels and mood.

To read more about how food affects mood, read the full article here:

For more information on foods that increase serotonin levels, click the links below:

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