Food & Mood: How diet and nutrition affect your mental health

(Isabel Williams is a Registered Dietitian at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer, Stittsville)

COVID-19 has placed additional challenges on the mental health of Canadians and has drastically changed the healthcare landscape. One in five Canadians will personally experience a problem or illness relating to their mental health. There are many factors that influence mental health, and food is one of them. Mental health can also have a big impact on the energy you have to think about or prepare food, as well as on your relationship with food.

As a local Stittsville Registered Dietitian, I am here to support you. Certain nutrients can help to build essential brain chemicals (which regulate mood) and prevent damage to the brain (impacts memory and thinking). This Nutrition Month, I’m highlighting some of the key nutrients in food to help your brain function at its best,” Isabel tells Stittsville Central.

  • B-Vitamins – Did you know that B-vitamins, including Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), B5, B6, Folate (B9), and the well-known vitamin B12, play a significant role in every part of brain function? B-vitamins help to produce energy, repair and build DNA, as well as create neurotransmitters, which regulate mood. To meet your daily requirements, try incorporating a variety of whole grains, leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, meat, and legumes to your diet. If you are vegan or vegetarian, consider speaking to your doctor or a dietitian about taking a B12 supplement.
  • Vitamin D – In Canada, it’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D through sunlight for most of our seasons, even when adding food sources of vitamin D to our diet. In fact, Health Canada recommends a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU you are over 50 years old. The sunshine vitamin is not only important for bone health but plays a role in brain development and function. A deficiency in vitamin D has been linked with dementia, schizophrenia, depression, and autism. Talk to a health care professional or dietitian about how you may benefit from more vitamin D in your diet or a vitamin D supplement. 
  • Omega-3 – Did you know that Omega-3 fats are important for normal brain development and function? Omega-3 fats and their subtypes EPA and DHA help to reduce inflammation, are an essential component of cell membranes. They are mostly found in fish and seafood including mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, sardines, fortified eggs, and vegetable sources including kelp and seaweed. Don’t like fish? Omega-3 fat ALA can be found in some nuts and seeds, plant oils and soy products. If you don’t eat fish, you can talk to your doctor or dietitian to discuss whether an omega-3 supplement might be right for you.
  • Probiotics and Fibre – It’s no secret that there is a connection between our gut and our brain. We can support a healthy gut, and our beneficial gut bacteria, by consuming a variety of fibre-rich foods and probiotics. Fibre-rich foods include whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut, and foods with added probiotics such as yogurt and kefir.

As your local Brown’s YIG Registered Dietitian, Isabel is available personally to help you reach your nutritional goals. Whether you’re looking to support your mental health, general wellness or other concerns through healthy eating, dietitians such as Isabel provide a range of services to help. To learn more – yourindependentgrocer.ca/dietitians.

Isabel has also participated in local Stittsville events for National Diabetes Day – sharing her knowledge on the importance of healthy nutrition for those living with the disease to provide a healthier lifestyle.

Isabel shares a nutritious Pistachio Crusted Salmon recipe that is loaded in Omega-3 goodness.


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