The importance of diet on mental health

Exercise, mediation, mindfulness and improved sleep are often the first things we assess when we look at ways to improve our mental health. But one element that’s often overlooked is diet.

There have been numerous studies that have found links between certain foods and lowered mood. But in combination with a more active lifestyle, reducing intake of certain foods and increasing others has been shown to help improve mental health.

Here, we look at four ways you can help and advise staff who might be suffering from low mood, and how DocHQ can help via its Health Check test kits.

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1. Avoid ultra-processed food

A growing awareness around the negative affects of ultra-processed food (UPF) has meant that more people are becoming aware of its links to obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, increased risk of death and depression, among other health issues.

If you have not heard the term before, ultra-processed food usually refers to products that are made with five or more ingredients, including additives, emulsifiers, sweeteners and artificial colours. It’s often hard to define what is a UPF, but Dr Chris Van Tulleken, in his recent book Ultra-Processed People, defines them by the ingredients list: if you can’t make it using ingredients in your cupboard, it’s UPF.

A recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders linked high consumption of UPF with depression, so one way to improve mental health would be to consume a healthy diet with reduced amounts of ultra-processed food.

2. Increase protein intake

Mental health charity Mind recommends increasing protein intake to help support your mental health. This is because the amino acids found within protein help your brain create neurotransmitter chemicals, which are crucial in regulating thoughts and feelings.

Foods that will help boost protein levels include nuts and seeds, milk, cheese, fish, eggs and legumes such as beans, peas and lentils.

3. Drink less alcohol

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, meaning that it slows brain activity and changes the chemicals in the brain. Add to that the fact that the negative effects of a hangover the day after alcohol consumption can increase anxiety and depression, and the conclusion is that alcohol avoidance is one way to help boost mental health.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines recommend it is safest to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, so if you feel alcohol is affecting your mental health in a negative way, it’s worth trying to reduce consumption to below that limit.

4. Check your vitamin B12 levels

Vitamin B12 has been found to play an important role in producing dopamine and serotonin, and studies have shown that increasing B12 can help delay the onset of depression.

DocHQ Essential Vitamins Check provides the ability for your staff to check their B12 levels, along with their vitamin D, which, when below recommended levels, has been linked to low mood.

Our at-home test kit provides all that’s required to check these vitamin levels. A simple finger-prick test is all that’s required – that’s then sent to our verified laboratory for testing, after which they receive a GP-verified results report, with advice and recommendations.

So if vitamin B12 or D levels are low, they can change their diet, or introduce DocHQ supplements such as our Morning Booster or Evening Calmer.

For more information on DocHQ’s personalised health testing solutions and bespoke corporate packages, contact Amit Arora on