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Minding your mind this pandemic winter

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

So here we are, 2021! Feeling hopeful for the new year? Maybe, maybe not. There is certainly a sense of trepidation in the air this new year.

Mental Health has taken the stage in the last few years which is great. But there hasn't been a lot of info around your mind and nutrition. There are steps you can make yourself to help balance your mood. Little changes can make big improvements...


Your brain needs fats. The right kind of fats. Fats are so critical. They've had bad press for years unfortunately, which has led to people avoiding them.

Good fats:

:- extra virgin (cold pressed) olive oil (try not to heat, best to add after cooking or on salads/smoothies etc)

:- virgin coconut oil

:- grass fed & organic butter

:- Omega 3 ESPECIALLY the ones found in fish eg. salmon (preferably wild), herring, sardines, anchovies, mackerel.

For many of my clients I recommend a fish oil. The reason is because it contains DHA & EPA, types of fatty acids that the brain NEEDS to thrive. You can't get these very easily through veggie or vegan diets so supplementing is often critical for people who avoid oily fish. Flaxseed is healthy and fab for fibre but just doesn't cut it for brain health (therefore mental health).

It is also vital for pregnant mamas & postnatal mamas (especially those breastfeeding) as these fatty acids are so important, actually VITAL for your new baby's brain development. Hence why they (DHA especially) are in Formula Milk now.

It is a really important ingredient for helping with mood disorders.

Fats are easily damaged, mainly due to heat. Also some fish have higher levels of heavy metal contaminants than others. Good quality fish oils will test their products but many don't to a high standard. Hence, there are only a handful of brands I recommend for omega 3 DHA & EPA:

  • Bare Biology - the have a fab range: everyday, for bumps & kids AND one called 'mindful'.

  • Nordic Naturals - they have branched out to other supplements too. A good choice for those in the US

  • Cytoplan Vegan Omega - this is a good choice for vegans

Bad Fats - the ones that can lead to more inflammation in the body.

The ones to reduce/avoid:

:-Anything deep-fried. Pre-packaged biscuits & cakes too.

:-soy, corn, palm oils

:- reheating oils

:- cooking liquid/pourable oils too hot eg. olive oil

If you are going to roast, or heat oil to a high temperature, it is best to use a saturated fat - butter, coconut or lard. These fats won't be damaged when heated. Damaged fats are highly inflammatory.

2. Gut Health

If you have ever seen a naturopath or nutritional therapist, you'll know they go on about the gut. For good reason! All good or poor health starts in the gut, almost always. It contains most of our immune system.

The gut is where serotonin is made. The happy hormone. It helps our mood, our sleep. Making sure you're eating good amounts of fibre, a varied diet of lots of different types of fruit and vegetables. Fermented foods like kefir, kombutcha, kimchi, tempeh. Eating foods high in tryptophan also helps in the production of serotonin - turkey, bananas, oats, nuts & seeds.

Feeling bloated? Try eating some bitter foods before a meal - watercress, rocket or a little bit of apple cider vinegar in water.

3. Movement

I like to avoid the word exercise, it just feels boring or brings feelings of guilt, doesn't it?

GETTING MOVING is extremely helpful. Walking, stretching, dancing, hiking, yoga. Whatever you like. Better outside if you can. Even 10 minutes of getting your blood flowing has shown to reduce anxiety & stress.

4. Critical micronutrients

Vitamin D. Always worth getting your levels checked by your GP. It is also a readily available test privately that isn't too costly. The darker your skin and the more north you live, the harder it is to get vitamin D from the sun, and the more risk there is for you being deficient.

I like the sprays by Better You. 20 minutes of skin (the palest part of your body is better) exposure in decent sunshine.

Magnesium. I genuinely recommend a magnesium supplement for ALL of my clients. It has over 300 functions in the body. One of it's many uses is that it is needed for serotonin production. It has been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety & depression(1-4).

There are lots of different forms. Magnesium Glycinate probably being best for mental health. The one to avoid is magnesium oxide, (unless you're constipated and need a fix!), it goes straight through you.

Folate (B9) & B12. Needed for certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Helps with the "feel good". Generally an essential vitamin for women, especially. Try and avoid Folic Acid. Natural folate or methylfolate is preferred. I always prefer B vitamins together as a complex if taking a supplement. Most decent supplement brands make them:- Cytoplan, Nutri Advanced etc. Methylated forms generally are preferable.

Vitamin A, C & E - these antioxidants have shown to help reduce symptoms of low mood. Hence eating all your colourful veggies and fruit is super important. As well as nuts & seeds (even more so for activated ones).

Some organic chicken liver pate is a fab non-veggie source of vitamin A (not for pregnant mamas).

L-Theanine - an amino acid naturally found in green tea. You can also buy in supplemental form. It can calm a racing mind.

Ditch Alcohol & Stimulants

For many this may seem tricky. But trust me, alcohol and stimulants such as coffee and highly processed sugary foods can exacerbate mental health issues. It's January, why not try going alcohol free and see the benefits for yourself?

Coffee for many can, when consumed long-term, add to anxiety-related problems. Try weaning off or cutting right down to 1 cup per day.

Immerse yourself in nature

Studies have shown that 'ecotherapy' (a formal treatment of being outdoors) can alleviate mild depression. If you can take time out in your day to get near nature. A walk by the sea. Sitting on a bench in the park and noting the wind in the trees or birds singing. Even just imagining it can help calm your mind.

{I am NOT a doctor, a gynae or any other medical professional. This is speaking from my own experience as a mum and my knowledge as a nutritional therapist. Please speak to your medical doctor before deciding to do any of the above. This is NOT medical advice.

I am also not endorsing any of the recommended products above, I have no stake in any of these companies that I have mentioned, I just like their products}


1. Jacka FN, Overland S, Stewart R, Tell GS, Bjelland I, Mykletun A. Association between magnesium intake and depression and anxiety in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health Study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009; 43(1):45–52. pmid: 19085527.

2. Huang JH, Lu YF, Cheng FC, Lee JN, Tsai LC. Correlation of magnesium intake with metabolic parameters, depression and physical activity in elderly type 2 diabetes patients: a cross-sectional study. Nutrition J. 2012; 11(1): 41. pmid:22695027; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3439347.

3. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B. Magnesium intake and depression in adults. J Am Board Fam Med. 83. Yary T, Lehto SM, Tolmunen T, Tuomainen T-P, Kauhanen J, Voutilainen S, et al. Dietary magnesium intake and the incidence of depression: a 20-year follow-up study. J Affect Disord. 2016; 193:94–8. pmid: 26771950

4. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomised clinical trial. PLOS One. June 27 2017.

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