Winter is here and it is common to feel a bit under the weather. Cold, rainy days are often associated with a gloomy, depressed mood. However, emerging research has shown the benefits of a “healthy-brain diet” and its value as an underutilized but effective intervention in the management of mental health. Food psychiatry is receiving increased attention and in an article published in Lancet Psychiatry in 2015 states that “although the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology”.

We have listed some basic guidelines for you to keep in mind when including good mood food.

  1. Keep it natural.

Our diets have come a long way since our humble hunter-gatherer forefathers had to work for their food. A fast-paced lifestyle has resulted in many of us turning to convenient, processed food to fill our stomachs. These diets are high in refined carbohydrates as well as preservatives, additives and emulsifiers, which we know is not beneficial to our health. Studies consistently show that traditional, pre-processed diets are the healthiest, including for the brain. The simplest way to keep your diet natural and limit processed products is to prepare food yourself. However, we often find excuses such as:

“I don’t have time” – plan your meals in advance, prepare food in bulk and freeze in portions for later.

“It is too expensive to buy fresh produce” – It might seem cheaper to buy a takeway but with seasonal, smart shopping you will definitely save money in the long term. Like the old saying goes “buy a man a takeway and he eats for a day, teach him to shop efficiently and he eats for a lifetime”

“I can’t cook”Buy a cookbook and start experimenting. Not all dishes are always successful, but the gratification of serving a delicious, homemade meal to a loved one makes these less-successful attempts worthwhile.

  1. Keep it colourful.

For a healthy, balanced diet your plate should include all the colours of the rainbow. In the shops be on the lookout for bold colours e.g. the reds, purples and greens in particular. Not only will these colours look great on your plate, it also contains valuable micronutrients. Be cautious of including too much beige and white foods e.g. pasta, bread, potato, rice and pizza.

  1. Keep it Mediterrean

The Mediterrean diet consists out of whole grains, nuts and legumes and fruit and vegetables. It also includes 2-3 servings of fish per week (which is high in the good omega-3 fatty acids) as well as a little red wine (1-2 glasses per day). It has been found that following this diet has a beneficial effect on neurological and mental health. In a study that investigated the correlation of the Mediterrean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression, it was found that the diet significantly reduces the risk of developing depression with 40-60%.

A healthier brain diet leads to an improved ability to focus and more energy, which leads to improved self-confidence and consequently a greater involvement in one’s self-care. By improving our diet, it helps to improve our wellbeing and quality of life. It is not about avoiding foods and counting calories but rather focusing on eating a balanced, healthy diet along with a healthy and active lifestyle.

With these nutritional tips in mind, it will be so much easier to overcome the winter blues this year. For more information contact Imagine Dietitians on 0825637669 or send an email to

-x Marguerite Loftus


  1. Dr Jerome Sarris, Alan C Logan, Tasnime N Akbaraly. Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet, Psychiatry [Internet]. 2015 Jan 25; 2(3):271–4. Available from:
  2. Bret S. Stetka, MD. Beans, Greens, and the Best Foods for the Brain. Medscape [Internet]. 2015 Jul 7. Available at: