Supporting Men’s Mood through Food
1 in 4 men experience a mental health disorder at some stage of their life, which can have far-reaching consequences and significantly affect their day-to-day life . In fact, for men aged 15-44, suicide is the leading cause of death . Unfortunately, men are also less likely speak to anyone about their mental health or seek help, making them less likely to get the treatment they need when they are struggling . While poor mental health and mental illnesses are complex in both their development and treatment, one way that men can support their mental health is through their nutrition.
How can nutrition support men’s mental health?
Research is growing on the link between mental health and what we eat. A recent study investigated this connection between food and mood among a group of young men between the ages of 18 and 25 who were clinically diagnosed with severe depression . One group was the control while the other group followed a Mediterranean-style diet, and the study investigated the effects on symptoms of depression. After following the diet for 12-weeks, it was found that quality of life and symptoms of depression improved significantly among the group of men following the Mediterranean Diet!
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet emphasises plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It also focuses on healthy fats from oily fish and extra virgin olive oil while minimising ultra-processed foods and red meat. You can incorporate more of a Mediterranean diet by:
- Adding extra veggies to your plate by adding a side salad to your meal, adding a side of steamed veg, or incorporating them into your meals such as adding leafy greens and shredded carrot to a Bolognese!
- Incorporating healthy fats into your meals by cooking with extra virgin olive oil, having nuts as a snack, and having oily fish regularly.
- Adding more whole grains into your diet by swapping to wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, or perhaps trying an unfamiliar grain!
While depression is complex, we’re learning more about how what we eat can influence our mental health. Incorporating a healthy dietary pattern like the Mediterranean diet may help reduce symptoms of depression among men, and may help prevent it too*.
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress, contact an urgent mental health helpline. Lifeline is a free national service that provides 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services on 13 11 14.
* Whilst evidence around diet and depression is growing, it is seen as a support mechanism only. It is not a replacement for counselling or medication.
 Swami N, Prattley J, Bandara D, Howell L, Silbert M, Renda J, et al. Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health: Aust Econ Rev 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8462.12453.
 AIHW. Deaths in Australia, Leading causes of death - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Aust Gov 2018.
 Bayes J, Schloss J, Sibbritt D. The effect of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young males (the "AMMEND: A Mediterranean Diet in MEN with Depression" study): a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 Aug 4;116(2):572-580. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac106. PMID: 35441666.
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