Mental health issues are among the most common causes of people being absent from work and it’s estimated that about 1 in 4 people in the UK will struggle with their mental health each year. Since the beginning of the Covid-Pandemic, people have been struggling with mental health problems even more, due to isolation and anxiety about the uncertain situation.

You might have already heard that what we eat can have a big influence on how we feel. But how?

To understand this, we need to have a quick crash-course in Neuro-Science: Neurotransmission, or the transmission of nerve impulses between brain cells, is the process that commands how we think, feel and react on a day to day basis. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules that enable this transmission between the brain cells, which means they play a central role in building our thoughts. Many of these neurotransmitters are produced using amino acids, which we need to get from certain foods, because our body cannot produce them by itself.

So, to maintain its functions, to keep us alert and our attention strong, our brain needs neurotransmitters…. And the food we eat is essential for building these neurotransmitters.

For example, the neurotransmitter called Serotonin (mainly responsible for feeling happy and focused) is made from the amino acid tryptophane, which is found in egg white, cod, chia seeds and other foods. Now, this sounds very simple, but in reality there are many different processes involved in the production of these neurotransmitters, which require other nutrients as well, like Vitamins and Minerals. To give you a bit of perspective, we have so far discovered over 100 neurotransmitters and there are at least 40 different nutrients involved in our brain function, which shows how sophisticated these processes are and how important it is to have a balanced, varied diet.

Even though the whole story is hugely complex, it seems quite straightforward that what we eat has a direct impact on our thoughts and feelings!

To support this idea, Prof. Julia Rucklidge, a clinical psychologist from the Canterbury University in New Zealand, has shown that by treating mentally ill patients with micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, their mental state improved significantly and they had better long term results than when they were treated with anti-depressants (which, by the way, usually work through mechanisms aimed at increasing the concentration of certain neurotransmitters in your brain).

So, as you can see, nutrition has a huge impact not only on our physical, but also on our mental health. And once again, a diverse, well-balanced diet is extra-important to make sure that we get all the different nutrients necessary for our brain to function well, so that we can feel happier!