How food and exercise affects your mental health

Have you heard the phrase, “Food is the most overused drug and exercise is the most underused antidepressant”?

We’re talking specifically about food and mood link in terms of what we eat and how we feel. Also how exercise plays an important role in that and general mental health and what you can do right now today to help to make some healthy choices towards helping you to feel better and emotionally and mentally as well.

What I noticed is that ladies weren’t necessarily putting the links together in terms of the wonderful nutrition that they were now adding to their bodies and how good they were actually feeling. And I know that there’s a lot of confusion out there in terms of what you should eat and what you shouldn’t eat. You must be completely overwhelmed and bombarded with all of this conflicting information so here are just a couple of things that are known to be guiding universal principles in relation to food mood and how it does affect your mental health. Now a lot of this I got for mental health websites and because I wanted to just research that my own understanding of it was true and it did 100% back up exactly what I’m about to say and a lot of mental health charities.

Get your mojo back

If you’re looking to boost your mood or get your mojo back and also if you do suffer from anxiety this is going to help you. So we do know that changes in our diet in terms of what we eat can improve our mood but it also can improve our energy. If we feel better and feel more energetic we’re more likely to feel better about ourselves then we’re more likely to make better choices. Then that lovely cycle upwards can continue rather than the other way. When you feel you have more energy; real true energy then you’re able to continue and do good things.

It’s not only the food

So we say that food is the most overused drug because we can use it to medicate ourselves and I’ve noticed it actually again in a couple of examples recently but people had said and it’s not food per se. It’s a drink but it’s the kind of food a lot of people are really addicted to caffeinated beverages so not just coffee though coffee is more of a socially acceptable caffeinated drug of choice. But also cokes; diet cokes, soft drinks and Red Bulls and Lucozade those sorts of things. So let me share with you why they are rubbish and why you need to stop drinking them right now.

Let me tell you about what happens with blood sugar. So the reason why you end up feeling quite emotional some days or really low energy or literally full-on down in the dumps can be as a response to your blood sugar highs and lows. Have you ever been not just hungry? I didn’t actually get hungry as much if I get hungry more now because my metabolism is so high but more I used to get really emotionally hungry like if I was hungry or basically what was happening was my blood sugar was so low I would often just burst into tears. Seriously I would be so like, couldn’t deal with the world, can’t even fathom what to do.

Next kind of hungry is because I had such terrible blood sugar spikes then I would just burst into tears sometimes in the workplace sometimes in front of my bosses. Can anybody else relate to that? So what can you do so blood sugar is a really, really big thing. So what happens in the body is that blood sugar in itself is what that means by having a spike of blood sugar is your body has I think, called insulin and insulin is something that it uses to regulate the sugar and your glycogen stores within your body.

So your body stores its own natural energy. It’s got some natural energy sources. So what it does is as you bring in energy in the part of your food, your body will naturally try to spike up some insulin to help to process that and it’ll either store the energy or it’ll use the energy if you are giving the body pure sugar. So pure sugar without any sort of buffers so normally the sugars that we get naturally from things like fruit. So when you eat a fruit and the natural fructose which is quite high in sugar has at least the fibre to help to break that down you also get rid of that but that the fiber but also just like having our orange juice just like basically coca-cola and any of the other soft drinks you’re injecting straight into you into your bloodstream. Almost like injecting into your arm all of this sugar. The body then doesn’t know what to do with the sugar so what it does is that insulin comes running out to help it to try to regulate your spikes. You’re flooded with that insulin and that’s what makes you go up into the high. Then your body’s just rushing around trying to deal with all this sugar and figuring like what to do. Some of the time it’s stored as fat because that’s so new or puts it into your fat cells because it’s the only way that it knows how to deal with it.

Sugar makes us fat

So basically what happens is when you have these soft drinks it’s you’re constantly just spiking your body up. This is why we also know that sugar is the thing that makes us fat and not fat because sugar then is stored in your fat because it’s the only way that the body knows how to deal with it. But also even though what goes up has to come down again and those insulin spikes all day every day. Like being on an emotional roller coaster.

How about cold-pressed juice?

You want to make sure that your juice is balanced and still has the fibre in it so rather than pure juice pure fruit juices you want to check you want to try to balance your fruit juices with vegetable juices. That will help to balance out the amount of sugar that’s in it basically.

It is 100% true that if you’ve just consumed freshly squeezed orange juice you will still get the same amount of spike of the insulin up and down. That orange juice is going to do as if you were having coca-cola. In fact, there have actually been studies to show that because you’re taking the fibre out and the body can’t process that as well.

Here’s a solution if you want to think about reducing your soft drinks and your bubbly drinks:

Try to find more vegetable juices, green juices, green smoothies, where you can add other things into it. Lots of fats etc to then absorb some of that sugar but also choose low glycemic index fruits and vegetables so rather than your really sugary strawberries, bananas and a few of those other ones, you maybe want to choose berries which are slightly less sugar in the body. The body can deal with it better or get all the nutrients that you would get from fruits and vegetables in a capsule form so the sugar is taken out.

So cold-pressed juices are good 100% but if it was me I would focus on a good balance of mostly vegetables with a teeny bit of the fruit to make it palatable and drinkable.

Is coffee out?

Blood sugar spike can also happen with caffeine as well so if the drink has sugar and caffeine in it goodness gracious you can only imagine what it’s doing and messing with your mind. I generally only have one or two cups a day but the other day I had a coffee and I have to tell you the calm down effect of that coffee. About three or four hours later I was like my first thought was maybe you should have another cup of coffee. So it is really an addictive thing.

There are other ways to have coffee.

You can blend it with a nice big juicy fat. So a lot of people blend their coffee with butter which is like a bulletproof coffee that works really well. If you’re a vegan you can blend it with coconut oil that works really well too. Or if you want the mother of all fats then go for like a cow cow cream which is amazing and if you blend your coffee with that the caffeine is better cushioned in its absorption doesn’t spike you with crazy caffeine and then you get more of a nice steady release of energy which is what you want.

If you’re having coffee and you’re having something that does have iron in it the coffee will bind the iron and not let it be absorbed into the body. So you need to know when to have your good fruits and vegetables and then when to have your coffee and use coffee as the tool that it was intended.


So hydration can definitely 100% really wreck your mood, in fact, I’ve only noticed this recently because I’ve started a new thing called the hydration potion. First thing in the morning it’s not really that fancy but in terms of nutrition, it’s amazing. I’ve boiled water that’s allowed to cool, a half size of a lemon and 2 or if not 3 sprinkles and I’m doing this in my salt shaker. My sea salt shaker the salts it balances your electrolytes. It also has all the key minerals that you need because as you break your fast in the morning your body is starving of minerals the water kick starts all of your major organs when it’s slightly warm rather than cold it also is nice and easy for the body to absorb. So hydration is so important in fact there are links with hydration and Alzheimer’s even so much just to show you the link between that and the brain the lack of proper hydration over long periods of time.

Another really, really interesting effect: so hydration is so important so instead of reaching for that coke, that Lucozade, that Redbull, please please please look at reducing that trying to get more water in your system. If you don’t like water you can add a little bit of fruit juice as you talked about squeezing some lime, in there squeezing some lemon in there. If you can get one of those water fusers I wouldn’t mind you stick a bit of berries in there.

Are you magnesium deficient?

Generally, 1 and 2 to 1 and 3 women that I would chat with on a regular basis are magnesium deficient. And how you would know is there are quite a few symptoms the biggest one can be actually anxiety or feeling anxious physically. Anxious not just then moving into your mind so a physical anxiousness can feel almost like a little vibration but the idea of sitting still fills you full of horror. So it’s that sense of vibration. Also, our sleep issues, muscle pains, joint pains, headaches leading to migraines etc so what we have found when I see ladies take our superfoods up because they’re full of green vegetables which are packed full of magnesium. That’s the first thing their anxiety is lessened, they are steady in terms of their mood, they’re getting the right amount of nutrients.

Don’t rely on carbs 

Getting enough proteins and fats in your diet is so important. You know the education that we’ve had up until this point you know, toast for breakfast, cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch. All of this is carb carb carb central. It’s really just starting to educate yourself to move away from carbohydrates as your main source of fuel and moving into healthy fats and smart proteins. So this is again why I save loads of ladies finding that their their their moods and their positivity are increased when they start to have more protein in their diets. Protein in the form of lovely smoothies and shakes which work really well for females on the run or adding more healthy proteins from lean cuts of meat organics, meat, eggs and fish. Nuts are a really good source for vegans as well as tofu and tempeh.

Sugars and carbohydrates are only really used for when you have done exercises or you’re about to run on a big race and you need that extra little bit of fuel to push you. If you’re somebody who is not doing a lot of exercises my advice would be just to focus as much as you can on healthy fats and proteins. Healthy fats being avocados, eggs, oily fish, nuts, and seeds. If you’re somebody who goes, “I don’t really like all of those” then you can stick it into a smoothie or a shake and drink the bloody thing. It doesn’t have to be complicated, difficult or expensive.

Sleep and lack of it

So generally sleep and the lack of sleep is an indication of something else in balancing in the body. Generally, it can be that magnesium is not working. You’re not eating enough calories for you and you’re being anxious and stressed about what’s going on. You could have adrenal fatigue and be burnt it–with what’s going on with your work.

If you had too many coffees or too much energy drinks or sugar throughout the day and your body doesn’t know how to switch off. So generally it’s impossible for me to say you need to sleep better without fixing a lot of those other little things that encourage you to do so.

Then comes in exercise

So this is where exercise plays an important role as well as with all of those other things. The more that you exercise the more we’re tired. That’s another way to deal with stress relief but also you tend to want to fuel your body better as you exercise but exercise has this wonderful little thing called endorphins.  So when you flick that little switch in your brain and it becomes a really wonderful thing to do that you actually get to the point where you look forward to it every day. It’s part of stress relief,  it’s a part of me time and that can also help to steady your mood.

Focus on slow, steady steps

All it takes is one or two small little baby changes into your diet and I promise you if you’re taking those superfoods within a matter of days you will feel better. When you start to feel better and get a wee bit of your mojo back you’ll start to make better choices in terms of what you drink and the foods that you eat and how to boost that and then before you know it you’re feeling so much better.

Watch the full video below to get all the juicy info!


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Lisa Barwise

Author Lisa Barwise

Hi, I'm Lisa. I consider myself a Wellness Alchemist, the catalyst in the transformation of Strong Women around the world. Strong of mind, body and character.

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