9th March 2020 All Posts Insights

The link between food & Mental Health

We recently spent some time with Louise Mercieca, Early Years Nutritional Therapist and all round lovely person!

She’s extremely passionate about what she does and she’s won tonnes of awards for her efforts including one from Dragons Den’s Theo Pathitis! If you haven’t done already, take a look at her Early Years TV Food Channel.

Louise spoke to us about the link between food and our mental health and the particular impact that this can have in the Early Years. 

“There’s a huge link between the foods we eat and our mood. The type of food we eat can make us happy, calm, angry, irritable, restless and sleepy. The foods we eat can impact on our cognitive function, emotional resilience, sleep and ability to manage stress and anxiety. All of these affect a child’s ability to learn and develop.”

Here are three general factors that we can look at to consider the link between food and mood: 

  • Breakfast

It’s imperative for children to eat a healthy breakfast.

if a child goes without or has a high sugar breakfast this will cause a blood sugar fall.

The behavioural traits of this can be; irritable, aggressive (or hangry), tired, restless, lacking in concentration, fidgety and daydreaming.

cereal
  • Essential Fatty Acids 

This is quite a complex one to summarise but I do a number of assessments in my work to look at behavioural and developmental traits that would pinpoint to a deficiency in Essential Fatty Acids. They are essential for a reason, they make up 40% of our brain and in a growing child with rapid brain development any deficiency can have a big impact.

  • Neurotransmitters

The real link between food and mood is the relationship between the food we eat and the brain-chemicals they help to produce.  These are the things that naturally manage our emotions and mood. Food has a role to play in all of this – this is how:

 – Certain foods (amino acids, vitamins and minerals) combine or act alone to create a pathway in the body resulting in a neurotransmitter. 

 – Take the amino acid Tryptophan – eat some cottage cheese containing this and that tryptophan will go on to create the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin helps to regulate your mood and, at the right time, can help the body switch into the sleep cycle.

sugar cereal

The role of food with our mood and mental health is huge but every day steps can make a big difference: –

  • Ensuring that children eat a nutrient rich diet
  • Reducing sugar intake
  • Limiting the amount of trans-fats (artificial fats found in processed or re-heated fast food) that are consumed
  • Ensuring children are properly hydrated (preferably with water not artificial sweetener laden drinks)
  • Looking after their gut health by making sure live yogurt and other pre and probiotics are included daily

There’s many reasons why children physically display signs of stress, anxiety, frustration if they have any nutrient deficiencies.

 

Louise has written a fantastic eBook packed with more information for anyone looking after children. Both Parents and Practitioners can benefit from reading Nutrition in the Early Years

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