eating well for a healthy headspace

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Eating well gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, improves your concentration and, you guessed it, keep a healthy headspace.
Kimberley Scanlan hyNRG
“When I started trying to improve my mental health I also knew I needed to improve the way I was eating. I started by having healthier snacks around and cooking up big meals. That way, when I was hungry, I had something that I could eat.”
- Kimberley Scanlon

Download our factsheet on food and mood

Food and your mood

When you think of improving your mental health, you may not think about changing the food you eat. But there is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel!

We know a poor diet can make you feel sluggish, low and increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. But now we are seeing a healthy diet (with a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts and wholegrains) can actually improve mental health.

Skillet of food cooking
This is a pretty new and exciting area of research. Two recent studies investigated whether healthy food could reduce depression symptoms. And the results were clear. People who ate a healthier diet improved their depression symptoms more than people who focused on only social support.

Here’s how eating well can improve your headspace:

  • help you get a better night’s sleep

  • give you more energy

  • improve your concentration

  • make you less likely to crave foods with high sugar, salt or fat.

Ask an expert

How can I eat for a healthier headspace?

Professor Felice Jacka is Director of the Food and Mood Centre. Here are her tips to eating a healthier diet for your mental health.

  • Often we turn to unhealthy snacks when we are stressed. So it’s good to develop coping strategies that are not related to food - like exercise or mindfulness.

  • We know that some foods are very good for a healthy mind. Make sure your diet includes things like: colourful fruits and vegetables, foods high in fibre (wholegrain cereals and bread, beans, chickpeas, lentils and nuts), fermented foods like unsweetened yogurt, olive oil, and fish (tinned is fine).

  • Make small changes that are easy to stick to. Start by swapping an unhealthy afternoon snack for a healthy one, like a piece of fruit.

  • You don’t have to be perfect, and don't be too hard on yourself. A burger or a chocolate bar are fine every now and then (say, once on the weekend). But it's important to make sure your diet includes a variety of nutritious foods, most of the time!

  • Try to avoid too much red meat – a little bit is fine but keep it to 3-4 times per week.
Kimberley Scanlan hyNRG

Kimberley Scanlon

'I’ve struggled with depression for many years. And for me, bad nutrition was a symptom of my mental health struggles. Basically, I would stop putting that time into self-care, and nutrition was a part of that.

Once I made some small changes I definitely noticed a difference. I can concentrate better, it’s easier to study, and it just makes me happier.

It’s a sense of achievement.

I know if you are really depressed it can be hard to find the energy to even leave the house. So even doing your groceries online can be good – that way you have healthier options at home.'

Kimberley - hY NRG member


Healthy habits

When you’re feeling low and stressed, it’s important to put healthy habits in place – to give yourself a better chance of coping with life’s challenges.

The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.

Last reviewed 5 June 2018

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