As societal norms evolve, hitherto withheld maladies seem to find more acceptance and are more openly discussed. The stigma attached to them in the days of yore is shed. Awareness about such issues is greatly rising with more easy access to information. One such area is that of mental health. Stress is unavoidable and can only rise with each passing generation bringing in its wake a host of emotional disturbances, rendering many unable to perform to capacity. But what is heartening is help in the form of skilled professionals and modes of addressing these issues are more easily and widely available. Many of us become armchair mental health professionals occasionally when we judge others and their behaviour.

While the pharmaceutical industry has made rapid strides in the last few decades with path breaking molecules, one area of interest is the impact of diet on mental health. To say that simply your diet could address all mental health issues would be an exaggeration, and to say that the diet has no role in alleviating symptoms would be untrue. The truth lies somewhere in between. Your diet can play an important role while dealing with mental health issues as an important adjunct to different therapeutic modes.

To put it very simply one’s behaviour is the result of one’s mood and one’s mood is simply an interplay of neurotransmitters or brain chemicals. The quantum and presence (time) of these neurotransmitters in the millions of synaptic connections along the neural pathways in the brain is what determines one’s mood. Some of the commonly known neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and GABA. But obviously these chemicals need to be synthesised in adequate amounts in the body to regulate optimum mood. And, this is where diet can and does play a role.

The four critical components which can have a significant impact on brain function are vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids and proteins. For now, let’s look at the connection between proteins and mental health. In a very general way, diets high in protein help you stay away from sugary and processed foods which are believed to have a proclivity towards anxiety and depression. A diet rich in protein allows for more energy and activity levels leading to feeling more better.

But the connection with proteins doesn’t end there. There is a more important role played by proteins. Amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins play a critical role in the production of neurotransmitters. Dopamine a very important neurotransmitter is made from L-Tyrosine which is an amino acid. And dopamine levels play a role in a host of mental disorders such as depression, addiction, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. Similarly, the amino acid L-Tryptophan which is found in dairy, poultry and nuts is a precursor for serotonin which is needed to sustain mood. It also helps improve the efficacy of anti-depressant medication for people under treatment.

So, while protein intake does have a direct and unmissable impact on mental wellbeing, it is important to not go overboard. There are studies that excess consumption of BCAA or branched chain amino acids actually lead to depressed moods. What is important is to mix your protein sources and take in stipulated amounts. In fact, grandma knew best when she gave you the glass of warm milk at night telling you that you’d sleep better. Milk is a rich source of Tryptophan which promotes serotonin formation which induces good sleep. She didn’t know it then, you know it now.

Now to make your plain milk palatable, you can add flavoured protein powder to jazz up the taste. To know more about which protein would be right for you, please visit