he pace of life has changed dramatically over
the years and the increase of mental health
conditions has skyrocketed. Research shows
that on average it can take a sufferer 10 years to
admit to a problem. This can mean that what can
start as a fairly low level issue can become more
serious and require much greater intervention.
By understanding more about the power of
food as medicine, it may be possible to take greater
responsibility for our own mental health. By
understanding the impact of what we eat on the
body and mind can be hugely enlightening and
help people navigate their route to recovery and
happiness. Rachel Kelly and Alice Mackintosh have
recently co-authored `the happy kitchen', a book
about the links between food and mood, which
provides scientifically proven advice and equips
Rachel Kelly began her career as a journalist
on The Times and during this time experienced two
episodes of depression. She has written several
books sharing her story of recovery including the
best selling book, `Black Rainbow'. During Rachel's
last depressive episode in 2004 she was keen
to find ways to stay calm and began to research
lifestyle interventions. Her GP also recommended
she could focus on foods that may help her feel
happier and this was how she met Alice a degree
qualified nutritional therapist. Working together to
help Rachel they found ways that would help her
to stay calm, feel well and happy and this work has
now culminated in `the happy kitchen'.
When changing her diet Rachel noticed
changes in her mood straight away, especially
when removing sugar. Taking out sugar reduced
her mood swings and anxiety. She also found
that by introducing mindfulness into her cooking
and eating it encouraged her to slow down, stay
calm, chew slowly and remain more focused in the
In their book Alice and Rachel share their golden
rules for happiness which include:
· Focus on plant based foods, which are great
for mental health. Increase your daily intake
and variety of vegetables and include spices &
herbs such as turmeric and saffron, which may
improve low mood & anxiety.
· Balance sugar levels by not reaching for those
quick fixes. Substitute sugar/sweet foods with
other options and replace high sugar fruits
such as bananas, pineapples and mangoes with
lower levelled ones such as berries and apples.
· Don't be scared of fats! The dry weight of our
brain is 70% fat. The book explains which fats
and foods are beneficial for us and how to cook
them to get the best out of them.
· Eat to support your digestive system. Digestion
and mood are intrinsically linked with our
digestive system even being called our second
brain. People with anxiety, depression or
stress often suffer from IBS and changes to our
digestive system can have a massive effect on
how we feel mentally.
· Eat more nuts. They are so nutritious and easy to
add to any meal/snack.
· Relax, enjoy and celebrate life.
Alice and Rachel both advocate eating a range of
foods across all food groups, so it's not an approach
that's about denying yourself or restrictive eating.
By following `the happy kitchen', 90% of the time
individuals should feel improved mood, energy,
better sleep and improved digestive health. The
book also includes treats but they are just that,
treats to have occasionally.
Along with delicious recipes and meal planners the
book also contains a toolkit of Fab Mood Foods as well
as `Nutrition Notes' scattered throughout the text in
which Alice explains the biology and chemistry of
nutrition. The book is also divided into a wide range
of chapters for a more personalised approach.
Chapters include Balanced Energy, Beating the
Blues, Hormonal Peace and Mental Clarity. In
Beating the Blues Rachel and Alice emphasise the
importance of healthy fats especially omega-3 fats,
which can boost mood. Omega 3 fats can be found
in oily fish, flax, hemp, seeds and walnuts. These