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Eating a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet can help keep our bodies and minds healthy and certain food groups are known to affect your body and mood in specific ways.  Refined carbohydrates (simple sugars found in fizzy drinks, fruit juices, jams and syrups) can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, causing adverse effects on your mood and energy levels.  Proteins, such as tofu, eggs or poultry, can slow the absorption of carbohydrates in your blood and increase dopamine levels, improving your mood. Food which contain Vitamins D, folate and B-12 can also improve mood, and can be found in things like soy-milk, broccoli, oatmeal, oranges and dark leafy greens. There are also good carbs, such as oats, beans, pears, peas and sprouts, and these slow down sugar absorption and increase serotonin, which can decrease mood swings.

Of course, everyone is different, and some people have allergies or intolerances, so it’s important to be mindful of what works best for you when trying out a new regime. If you suspect you might have an intolerance of some kind, you should talk to your GP or medical professional about temporarily eliminating potential allergens, such as gluten or dairy, and reintroducing them slowly to see if your symptoms return.  There is lots of good advice on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet on the NHS Eat Well website. 

Remember, lots of people find managing their diet overwhelming and that it’s okay not to be perfect, nobody is.  If your relationship with food is becoming a source of stress or an obsession or fixation for you then it’s worth talking to a doctor or other professional to get some support.  


What young people have told us:

'Sugary foods makes me more cranky & depressed.'

'I think it helped as I was taking care of myself and swapping processed food for healthier alternatives gave me more energy, which allowed me to take up more hobbies and socialise.'

'Try it for at least a week and see the differences it makes in your physical and mental health.'

'Give it a try and the article suggests. Try it for one week. It's a short time to try something out and see if it works for you.'

There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.

If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.