A protein deficiency can impact your mental health, according to an expert

Have you thought about your protein intake recently?

(Image credit: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)

If you weren't aware, Mental Health Awareness Week has been taking place since Monday. Due to close tomorrow, it's been a perfect opportunity for many people to discuss the importance of mental health and how much it can affect our everyday lives. 

However, one thing that's often overlooked is the link between mental health and physical health. Many of us are aware of how to help symptoms of poor mental health, including certain breathing techniques, but what happens when it's having an effect on our physical health? 

To find out more, I spoke to Kyle Crowley, a nutrition expert at Protein Works. He explained how protein can actually be an important aid in supporting someone's mental health. Keep reading to find out why, and how to easily incorporate protein into your diet yourself. 

Is protein intake linked to mental health?

Increased protein intake has been linked to improved mental health, primarily due to its amino acid composition. Amino acids serve as the fundamental building blocks for our neurotransmitters such as Serotonin and Dopamine, which are vital chemical messengers in our brain that help to regulate mood, cognitive function and emotions.

When we feel stressed, it is not uncommon for our nutrition to be the first thing we neglect. However, depriving our bodies of nourishment during difficult times can exacerbate existing issues and work against us. Fatigue, irritability, and increased anxiety are just some of the symptoms that can manifest. 

Integrating high-protein foods into our diets can act as a protective and proactive measure to help alleviate some of these symptoms of suffering mental health by offering sustained energy and stabilising our blood sugar levels throughout the day.

7 easy protein-rich snacks to help support your mental health 

If you are facing mental health challenges, it’s not uncommon to displace good nutritional food for comfort high-sugar snacks. However, this swap can cause a sudden spike in energy and lead to sugar crashes, which can negatively impact our mood.

Here is a list of high-protein snacks that can help to boost your mood and enhance your well-being without requiring extensive preparation.

1. Almonds

Small but certainly mighty, almonds provide the essential nutrients to keep you fuelled for the day. They are also a great source of fibre, which is essential for gut health.

2. Rice cakes 

While rice cakes are typically associated with low calories, they also contribute to your protein intake. Consider adding peanut butter as a topping for an additional protein source. 

3. Hummus and veggie sticks 

Hummus and veggie sticks are a classic combination that blends a great source of protein with fibre. 

4. Protein yoghurt 

Protein-rich and a great source of calcium, look for varieties with no added sugar and maybe look at adding fresh fruit to expand the flavour profile of your snack. 

5. Protein shake

With a wide variety of flavours available on the market, protein shakes are a quick solution that can be seamlessly integrated into your daily routine. 

6. Edamame peas

Not only delicious but a fantastic source of plant-based protein. Typically enjoyed steamed or lightly salted, there is roughly 11g of protein in 100g. 

7. Cheese

Cheese is a tasty and convenient source of protein, with various forms available. 

If you're interested in more, check out these 3 surprising ways your mental health is affecting your gut

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.