WELLBEING

Food for Positive Mental Health

By Dionne Shalit

Posted  June 16 2017 | 0 Shares

SHARE / LIKE

Mental health conditions are disturbingly on the rise in Australian children. They are also occurring in children of younger age than ever before. Funded by the Australian Government, the Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing is the largest national survey examining the mental health of children and adolescents in Australia. The survey was conducted between 2013-2014 and found that in children and adolescents aged between 4 and 17, 1 in 7 had suffered from a mental illness in the previous 12 months.[1]

 In order of frequency, the mental disorders included:

  1. ADHD
  2. Anxiety disorders
  3. Major depressive disorders
  4. Conduct disorders

Although mental health issues are more prevalent in adolescents than children, it is important to set kids up with the best possible chance of having a healthy future. Studies have shown that good nutrition has a huge impact on brain development and mood.[2] By providing our children with the necessary nutrients to improve mood we may be able to decrease their chance of obtaining a mental disorder.

Read: The ADHD diet can help improve symptoms

6 essential nutrients to help promote positive mood and mental health

  1. Omega 3: Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most highly studied nutrients when it comes to mental health. The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish have been shown to increase mood by having beneficial effects on neurotransmission. [3] They are also important for decreasing inflammation, which can lead to depression. Animal models have shown an increase in serotonin and dopamine concentration in the frontal cortex after administration of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish should be consumed 2-3 times a week as part of a healthy diet. Also try adding chia seeds and linseeds into the diet as these also contain omega 3.
    .
  2. Zinc: Recent studies have indicated that children with ADHD have lower levels of zinc in their blood.[4] Zinc is important for mental function as it helps modulate the stress response. Many neurotransmitters require Zinc for activation. Accordingly Zinc has an important roll for in the operations in the brain, where it can be found in the highest concentration. Many adults suffering from mental illness have been found to be deficient in Zinc. Zinc deficiency is also found in pyrolle disorder, which is common in children with mental illness. Zinc supplementation has been found to help improve the symptoms associated with mental health conditions across age groups. Some foods naturally containing Zinc include pumpkin seeds, seafood (especially oysters), turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, nuts and beans.
    .
  3. Iron: Low iron levels have been linked to many mental health issues from anxiety to depression. Iron is also a necessary nutrient for brain development. [5] Many individuals with food intolerances or undiagnosed coeliac disease have iron deficiency as one of the symptoms leading to poor mental health. Food such as red meat, poultry, seafood, beans and green leafy vegetables contain iron and should be consumes regularly. Try having iron rich foods with something high in vitamin C such as fresh orange juice to aid its absorption.
    .
  4. Probiotics: The evidence linking our gut micro biome and mental health is constantly growing. Approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin is actually found in the gut. [6] Therefore, if your digestive system is not functioning properly it is likely that your mood will suffer. This is why creating a healthy digestive system in children is so vital to prevent mental health issues arising as they get older. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in and help regulate our gut. They are responsible for maintaining a healthy digestive system. The main food that contains probiotics is yogurt, however certain foods help to feed these good bugs and they should be consumed daily to promote optimal digestive function. Some of these foods include garlic, onion, asparagus, bananas and Jerusalem artichoke­ and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and tempeh.
    .
  5. Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in serotonin development and helps to regulate emotions. It is also a nervous system relaxant. Its deficiency is associated with irritability, mental confusion, poor sleep and stress. [7] Some good food sources of magnesium include nuts, wholegrain, chicken, fish and beef.
    .
  6. B vitamins: Whole grains such as amaranth, millet, buckwheat, brown rice and oats just to name a few are very beneficial to consume in moderation as part of a healthy diet. They are all fantastic for improving mood. They contain B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. These are all important for neurotransmitter synthesis, which is necessary for positive mood. At least one serve of these grains should be included in your child’s diet every day.

For sensitive kids there are also certain things that should be limited or eliminated from the diet if you want to improve mental health. Sugar, artificial colour and flavours, dyes, preservatives, salicylates and allergens may all contribute to poor mental health. Consult a health care practitioner to discuss whether food intolerances or certain chemicals may be contributing to negative mood in your child. Supplementation of the above nutrients may also be necessary. Your health care practitioner can discuss appropriate dosing depending on the child’s age and size.

Read: How diet intervention helped my child’s autism recovery

Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development both physically and mentally. This is why it is essential to provide children with optimal nutrition specifically focusing on zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, B vitamins, probiotics and iron. Evidence indicates that proper nutrition plays an important role in positive mental health. This is why it is the most important time to prepare your child for a happy and health future.

Reviewed by Dionne Shalit 16 June 2017 references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • document id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

1 comments

latest articles

view all

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED - MEET THE EXPERTS VIEW ALL

Food for Positive Mental Health

WELLBEING

Mental health conditions are disturbingly on the rise in Australian children. They are also occurring in children of younger age than ever before. Funded by the Australian Government, the Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing is the largest national survey examining the mental health of children and adolescents in Australia. The survey was conducted between 2013-2014 and found that in children and adolescents aged between 4 and 17, 1 in 7 had suffered from a mental illness in the previous 12 months.[1]

 In order of frequency, the mental disorders included:

  1. ADHD
  2. Anxiety disorders
  3. Major depressive disorders
  4. Conduct disorders

Although mental health issues are more prevalent in adolescents than children, it is important to set kids up with the best possible chance of having a healthy future. Studies have shown that good nutrition has a huge impact on brain development and mood.[2] By providing our children with the necessary nutrients to improve mood we may be able to decrease their chance of obtaining a mental disorder.

Read: The ADHD diet can help improve symptoms

6 essential nutrients to help promote positive mood and mental health

  1. Omega 3: Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most highly studied nutrients when it comes to mental health. The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish have been shown to increase mood by having beneficial effects on neurotransmission. [3] They are also important for decreasing inflammation, which can lead to depression. Animal models have shown an increase in serotonin and dopamine concentration in the frontal cortex after administration of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish should be consumed 2-3 times a week as part of a healthy diet. Also try adding chia seeds and linseeds into the diet as these also contain omega 3.
    .
  2. Zinc: Recent studies have indicated that children with ADHD have lower levels of zinc in their blood.[4] Zinc is important for mental function as it helps modulate the stress response. Many neurotransmitters require Zinc for activation. Accordingly Zinc has an important roll for in the operations in the brain, where it can be found in the highest concentration. Many adults suffering from mental illness have been found to be deficient in Zinc. Zinc deficiency is also found in pyrolle disorder, which is common in children with mental illness. Zinc supplementation has been found to help improve the symptoms associated with mental health conditions across age groups. Some foods naturally containing Zinc include pumpkin seeds, seafood (especially oysters), turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, nuts and beans.
    .
  3. Iron: Low iron levels have been linked to many mental health issues from anxiety to depression. Iron is also a necessary nutrient for brain development. [5] Many individuals with food intolerances or undiagnosed coeliac disease have iron deficiency as one of the symptoms leading to poor mental health. Food such as red meat, poultry, seafood, beans and green leafy vegetables contain iron and should be consumes regularly. Try having iron rich foods with something high in vitamin C such as fresh orange juice to aid its absorption.
    .
  4. Probiotics: The evidence linking our gut micro biome and mental health is constantly growing. Approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin is actually found in the gut. [6] Therefore, if your digestive system is not functioning properly it is likely that your mood will suffer. This is why creating a healthy digestive system in children is so vital to prevent mental health issues arising as they get older. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in and help regulate our gut. They are responsible for maintaining a healthy digestive system. The main food that contains probiotics is yogurt, however certain foods help to feed these good bugs and they should be consumed daily to promote optimal digestive function. Some of these foods include garlic, onion, asparagus, bananas and Jerusalem artichoke­ and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and tempeh.
    .
  5. Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in serotonin development and helps to regulate emotions. It is also a nervous system relaxant. Its deficiency is associated with irritability, mental confusion, poor sleep and stress. [7] Some good food sources of magnesium include nuts, wholegrain, chicken, fish and beef.
    .
  6. B vitamins: Whole grains such as amaranth, millet, buckwheat, brown rice and oats just to name a few are very beneficial to consume in moderation as part of a healthy diet. They are all fantastic for improving mood. They contain B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. These are all important for neurotransmitter synthesis, which is necessary for positive mood. At least one serve of these grains should be included in your child’s diet every day.

For sensitive kids there are also certain things that should be limited or eliminated from the diet if you want to improve mental health. Sugar, artificial colour and flavours, dyes, preservatives, salicylates and allergens may all contribute to poor mental health. Consult a health care practitioner to discuss whether food intolerances or certain chemicals may be contributing to negative mood in your child. Supplementation of the above nutrients may also be necessary. Your health care practitioner can discuss appropriate dosing depending on the child’s age and size.

Read: How diet intervention helped my child’s autism recovery

Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development both physically and mentally. This is why it is essential to provide children with optimal nutrition specifically focusing on zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, B vitamins, probiotics and iron. Evidence indicates that proper nutrition plays an important role in positive mental health. This is why it is the most important time to prepare your child for a happy and health future.

Reviewed by Lisa Kelly 16 June 2017
references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • Doc id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

1 comments

more articles by Dionne Shalit

view more

latest articles

view more

MEET THE EXPERTS

view more