Saturday, January 16, 2021
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How to eat you way to better mental health

You might think, what with Australia’s lockdown protocols now easing and life showing some sign of at last returning to normal, that the blanket of anxiety that seems to have settled over our cities might finally begin to lift, too.

We all hope it does, of course, but I’m not certain that it will.

You only need to turn on the news (or flick through this very newspaper) to find experts worried about life after the coronavirus, and it’s hard not to feel it, too.

Will there be a second wave of infection? What will the job, property and financial markets look like in 2020 and beyond? Will life ever really return to normal?

Adam MacDougall for Sunday Fit Health Hacker. Supplied
media_cameraAdam MacDougall for Sunday Fit Health Hacker. Supplied

There are many tried and true techniques for easing that fear and anxiety, of course, and I’ve talked about many of them in this column. Meditation and mindfulness, exercise, the importance of getting quality sleep – all of them are great ways to find a little calm in our hectic lives.

But the truth is that, like so many things when it comes to our health, it all starts on your plate. No matter how much time you spend meditating or exercising, it can all be undone by making the wrong food choices.

So this week I’m going to show you how to eat your way calm, simply by filling your plate with foods that are proven to have a huge impact on your mental health.


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
media_cameraBreakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The most important meal of the day, and yet we’ve been doing it wrong for years. A coffee and a bowl of sugary cereal are the last things your body needs to start the day.

Try swapping the cappuccino for a green tea. It’ll deliver you around 30mg of caffeine, so you don’t need to go without your morning pick me up, but it’s also home to an amino acid called L-theanine, which helps deliver the mind-focusing effects of a cup of coffee, only without the jitters.

It also boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, otherwise known as your happy hormones, between one and three hours after you drink it.

Add a quality, protein-rich shake to your morning routine, or you can make your own, and you’ll have everything you need to get the day started right.


Salmon isn’t just high in Omega-3s, it’s also a known anxiety killer – studies have found that people who eat salmon at least once a week reported lower levels of anxiety than those who stuck to chicken, pork or beef.

Pair your grilled salmon with a green-heavy side salad and you get a double bonus, with studies showing that spinach has a positive impact on depression, while the antioxidants in kale can help ward off anxiety.

For BW Magazine 20/1 – Stock Photos: Pretty young woman enjoying her fruit salad
media_cameraFor BW Magazine 20/1 – Stock Photos: Pretty young woman enjoying her fruit salad


You’ve probably heard stories about how so many Americans find themselves snoozing after Thanksgiving lunch? That’s because the meal usually centres on turkey, a meat that’s particularly high in Tryptophan, an amino acid that naturally leads to sleep. So add turkey to your dinner plate and you’ll find yourself drifting off in no time.


Forget the sugary sweet stuff and dessert wine and instead reach for some dark chocolate, which is know to boost your serotonin levels and ease stress.


Almonds and berries are your go-to calming snacks. Almonds are rich in magnesium, which calms anxiety, while the antioxidants in blueberries are thought to have a positive impact on depression.


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