“Diet can have an effect on mental health,” cautions health expert

todayOctober 31, 2023 94

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As South Africa concludes Mental Health Awareness Month, dietician Omy Naidoo says diet can play a huge role on mental health and is advising people to consider a plant-based, healthy diet.

Naidoo says the relationship between a healthy diet and mental well-being is very important.

“The food we consume not only shapes our physical health, but also profoundly influences our mental and emotional states. There’s definitely a big link between what you eat and what you feel,” he told YNews.


Dr Naidoo says South Africa’s growing mental health challenges make it imperative for individuals to make informed dietary choices.

He says excessive caffeine and stimulants can lead to feelings of restlessness and jitteriness and even exacerbate anxiety or panic disorders. He adds that there’s certain foods that can be avoided because they increase symptoms of depression and anxiety.

These include:

– Foods with high refined sugar

– Processed foods

– Refined Carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, white pasta

– Caffeine

– Alcohol

“These spikes and crashes can result in mood swings, irritability, and even symptoms resembling anxiety and depression,” says the dietician.


Naidoo says food that support mental health consists of omega-3 fatty acids, proteins. Antioxidant-rich foods, fruits and vegetables like berries, spinach, and kale are also recommended as they are packed with antioxidants.

“The Mediterranean diet… has been shown in some studies to reduce depression and anxiety by 30%.”


Dr Naidoo is urging Yires, who are looking to changing their diet for a more healthier one, to be mindful eaters and pay attention to what they eat.

He advises them to start small when making changes to avoid overwhelming themselves.




Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris

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