What to eat and what to avoid for healthy mind and body


What to Eat for Good Physical and Mental Health

By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne

This book is designed to be a quick and easy entry to understanding what you need to eat, and what you need to avoid eating.  If you follow the insights and understandings presented in this book, you will feel much better physically and mentally, and your life will be happier and much calmer.


Extract number one:

Diet, nutrition and the implications for anger, anxiety and depression management

By Renata Taylor-Byrne

Unfortunately, in my experience, most people do not have a clue about how their physical health affects their cognitive and mental health”.

Dr Daniel Amen[1]


  1. Introduction

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020What we eat has a very powerful effect on our bodies and minds. And knowing and understanding how our body-mind reacts to the substances we feed ourselves is a crucial part of self-care.

For instance: depression can be caused by psychological reactions to losses and failures.  But it can also be caused by certain kinds of body-brain chemistry problems, some of which can begin in the guts, and be related to bad diet, and lack of physical exercise.  For example:

“If you are depressed while you suffer from regular yeast infections (like Candida Albicans), or athlete’s foot, or have taken antibiotics recently, there is a connection. Our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract and our mental well-being is dependent on healthy intestines. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses from autism to ADHD can be caused by an imbalance of gut microbes like fungi, and ‘bad’ bacteria”.

(Source: Michael Edwards (2014))[2].

And when we take antibiotics, we kill off all of our friendly bacteria, and often what grows back first is the unfriendly stuff, like Candida Albicans, which can then cause depression, anxiety and other symptoms, as listed above.

Also, we can really benefit from knowing some of the latest ideas about where – (in our diets) – our depression, anxiety and anger can originate from; as provided by specialists who have devoted their lives to years of investigation into the workings of the human body and mind (or body-mind).

Firstly, then, in these pages, I will be defining nutrition, and what the constituents of a balanced diet are (in so far as that is possible), based on research evidence.

Secondly, the views of health professionals, including medical doctors, neuroscientists, psychiatrists and nutrition researchers will be reviewed, in relation to the effects of the following substances on the body-brain-mind: transfats; sugar; alcohol; caffeine; processed food (and junk food); and gluten.

Thirdly, I will look at the question: Do we need supplements? The reasons for their usage will be considered; and arguments, from a few experts, will be presented, showing that it’s not possible to gain all the nutrition we need from our food (under modern conditions of food production).

Fourthly, I will look at the problematical experience and/ or expression of anxiety, anger and/or depression, and these emotional states (of over-arousal [as in anger and anxiety] and under-arousal [as in depression]) will be defined.

The ways in which our diets can precipitate and/or worsen our experiences of these exaggerated emotions, according to some of the latest research, will be examined.

Finally, which diet is best for physical and mental well-being?

And which lifestyle practices complement and enhance the value of a healthy diet? Some of the research findings, which answer these questions, will be reviewed; and the key ideas of doctors, and other specialists – who know the interconnectedness of our dietary and lifestyle practices, on the one hand, and our physical and emotional states, on the other – will be summarised.


“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system”

Kris Carr[3]

The reverse is also true. As argued by Dr Kelly Brogan and many other theorists:  Our bodily health affects our moods and emotions. [4], [5], [6].


  1. Why is nutrition important to the body-brain-mind?

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020Before we get to the link between nutrition and the health of the body and emotional well-being, we must lay some groundwork.

Firstly, what is nutrition?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2012)[7] it is the process of taking in and absorbing nutrients. Nutrients are those substances which are essential for life and growth. These nutrients are used by the body to maintain the growth, upkeep and reproduction of the cells.

Nutrition is very important for the body because without the energy we get from food we would not be able to move our bodies, or take part in any work activities, search for food or communicate with other people.  And we would quickly die, because we are not a result of our acts of will.

We are physical-social-animals, who are guided by innate emotions; who learn refined emotions from our family and schooling. We are body-mind-environment wholes, and we cannot think or feel independently of the use of brain food (like glucose, and essential fatty acids: [Footnote 214 below]), which comes from our diet; (plus oxygen which is optimized by our physical activity which promotes deep breathing).

Our full physical and mental development is dependent on the food that we eat. Without sufficient food we would not grow, our bodies would be stunted and our physical organs would be undeveloped; and the development of our brain would be irrevocably harmed.

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020We need high quality nutrition so that the body can repair itself, wounds can heal and cells can repair themselves as necessary. Our immune system needs a supply of high quality nutrients to keep it strong. In this way, viruses, infections and diseases can be kept out of the body.

There are many processes going on in the body and they need energy to work properly. Let’s look at the example of the digestive system. Brewer (2013)[8] cites the amount of energy used up by the body when it is digesting food, which is 10% of the total energy gained from a meal.  And our brains can use up to 40% of our consumed energy.

Nutrition is therefore crucial for the human body and brain. Without it, we could not survive or function in the world.

  1. What would a balanced diet look like?  

(And how do we know we are getting enough protein[9], carbohydrate[10], fats[11], and vitamins[12] & minerals[13]? [See Footnotes 23 to 27 for definitions]).

There are lots of different diets around today, recommended for physical health, weight loss, weight gain, lower cholesterol, and so on.  And increasingly, attention is turning to the link between diet and mood.  …

…End of extract number one.


Extract number two:

Dr Jim´s Stress and Anxiety Diet

Copyright © Jim Byrne 2016

  1. Introduction and disclaimer

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020This information is intended for educational purposes only, and does not purport to be medical advice.  Bear in mind that each individual body is probably pretty unique, because of its unique nutritional journey through life.  So it seems unlikely that we could ever produce a ‘universally valid’ diet! But it is certainly true that some foods are simply bad for us, causing blood-glucose problems, inflammation problems, and stress-hormone problems, all of which can and will have negative effects upon our mood and emotions.

We are changed by the foods we eat, and some experts would say we ‘are what we eat’. There are many expert nutritionists available today, at reasonable fees; and you would be well advised to see a nutritionist, or other medical practitioner if you are concerned there might be a link between your current emotional state and your diet.

  1. Personal experienceof diet and emotional distress

Whereas Renata Taylor-Byrne has formally studied diet and nutrition at diploma level, I (Jim Byrne) got involved in researching my own diet, and its effects upon my body-mind, because of an illness I had developed.

Between 1970 and 1976, I was married to a woman who had studied biochemistry, and also took some training as a cordon beau cook.  Therefore, unthinkingly, I was well fed, and kept away from foods that might be bad for my health (by and large!)

In 1976, my first wife and I divorced, and I became a mindless bachelor. I bought only ‘convenience foods’, and ate out all the time, apart from Sunday lunch, which was a ‘family event’ with the people with whom I shared a house in Oxford.

Every morning I got up and went to the corner store and bought a pint of milk and a pork pie.  (Milk is full of lactic acid, or milk sugar, which selectively feeds our unfriendly bacterial, including Candida Albicans. And pork pies are made from pig meat, and pigs are pumped full of antibiotics to prevent diseases in the herd; but those same antibiotics, in my gut, killed off my friendly bacteria).

My lunches varied (though I did have a lot of eggs; and non-organic eggs contain a lot of antibiotics, which kill off friendly gut bacteria, and allow for Candida overgrowth. They also contain a lot of arachidonic acid (a variety of omega-6 fatty acids, which causes inflammation; while organic eggs are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which quell inflammation. And inflammation is a cause of physical and emotional health problems).

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020Every evening I had the same thing for my dinner/tea: ‘Bhuna Chicken’.  (Bhuna chicken was sold in the Bengali restaurant down the road from where I lived.  It was made from factory-farmed chicken, which is full of antibiotics, to prevent diseases killing off the flock; but the same antibiotics, in my guts, killed off what was left of my friendly bacteria, and allowed unfriendly bacteria – like Candida Albicans – to flourish. And the most prominent taste of the Bhuna chicken was sweetness: from the handfuls of sugar in which it was cooked. And sugar is a neurotoxin, which suppressed my immune system for hours after eating it).

After one year of living like this, I went to work in Bangladesh.  Firstly, I had to submit to a range of vaccinations, each of which probably impaired my immune system (and I have since worked with a homeopath to reverse some of that damage!)  Then, upon arriving in Bangladesh, I hired a cook, who fed me rice three times per day.  Sweet Bengali Pudding, for breakfast; rice with curried vegetables, and polluted river prawns for lunch; rice with curried vegetables, and polluted river prawns for evening meal; followed by a sweet.  Yes: Sweet Bengali Pudding!

After one year in Bangladesh, I had a massive allergic reaction.  My body became covered with hot hives.  Even my tongue and eyeballs were erupting with urticaria. Some friends and I were on a steam-boat, half way to Khulna, and the boat would not turn back.  So we had to travel to Khulna, stay overnight, and then take the first steam-boat back to Dhaka the following day.  By the time I arrived in Dhaka, I was delirious.  My friends took me to a private doctor (British trained!)  I believe the doctor panicked, and instead of placing me under observation for twenty-four hours, and doing some proper diagnostic tests, he simply got a big hypodermic syringe, sucked some antibiotic into it; followed by adrenaline; and then some cortisol.  And he pumped this concoction into my right hip.

I was high as a kite for days.  I felt like god.  But when I came down my energy was half what it had been; and I had permanent dhobi itch; or what the Americans call jock itch; and indeed, on very hot and humid days, I got intense itchiness in all moist parts of my body.  My mood was also lower than it had been.

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020It took three or four years for me to learn that this is a problem called ‘systemic Candidiasis’, which most western doctors did not understand at that time, and perhaps that has not change much (for all I now know).  This condition is perhaps now included under the newer heading of ‘dysbiosis’, or imbalanced or unbalanced gut flora and fauna.

Fortunately, I got some advice from the late Kevin Benson, a specialist in herbal remedies, at Food Therapy, in Halifax, in 1981, or ’82.  I learned that the Candida spore has a negative effect upon our body and mind, and it’s normally held in check by our friendly gut bacteria.  We need to reduce sugar and yeast in our diets, and to take an anti-fungal substance (caprylic acid), and also to supplement with friendly bacteria, like Acidophilus Bifidus, and others.  I also read a book by Leon Chaitow on the nature of Candida Albicans, and how to control it using dietary restrictions[14].  That was the beginning of my journey into researching the effects of gut bacteria on health, including mood and emotion.  (See Jacobs, 1994; and Trowbridge and Walker, 1989)[15].

Because I was sensitized to the gut-brain-mind connection through my personal experience of diet and ill health, I was alert to new research coming out about similar unconventional insights; including the information that trans-fats are linked to problems of lack of control of anger[16]; and research showing that British prisoners who were switched to a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids experienced a reduction in aggressive incidents, fights, etc., with their fellow prisoners.

I then, also found that I occasionally got a depressed or anxious client who had no apparent psychological problem as the cause or stimulus for their condition, but who was on a high sugar and yeast diet, and who was, in fact, suffering the effects of Candida Albicans overgrowth.  Once they changed their diets, their depression and anxiety problems cleared up.

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020So I learned about the gut-brain-mind connection the hard way; the personal way; and I also collected empirical evidence of the truth of those insights from my counselling practice!

  1. No universal agreement regarding diet

As far as I can tell, after years of personal research, there is no universal agreement about the precise kind of diet which will promote or reduce stress, although we have some pretty good ideas of some of the major culprits, and some of the main forms of ‘best practice’.

As suggested by many other sources of advice, it is advisable to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (if you know you can tolerate the fruit!).  And, actually, this guideline should be expressed the other way around: Eat lots of vegetables and less fruit. Fruits contain sugars, and even though they are ‘natural sugars’, they can still cause problems for our blood-sugar management system.  So do not over-consume them.  (High GI [glycaemic index] foods push our blood sugar levels too high.  See section 4[b] above).

Sugars also occur naturally in vegetables, and some people are so sensitive to sugars that they have to reduce their consumption of those vegetables which are highest in such elements as fructans, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharaides, and polyols. These elements are normally referred to by the acronym of FodMaps; and there are some online information sites regarding the nature of FodMaps, and which foods contain them.

  1. Schools of thought on diet

What to eat for good physical and mental health, 2020There are many schools of thought on diet and health; perhaps several dozen; or even more.  There are many different types of diet in circulation today. (See section 3 of Part 1, above, for more detail).  Vegetarian diets; the Atkins, Ketogenic and Paleo diets (high in meat and fats, and low in carbs); Semi-vegetarian diets; raw-food diets; wholefood diets; macrobiotic (beans) diet; Weight control diets; Low-calorie diets; high calorie diets; Very low calorie diets; Low-carbohydrate diets; high carb diets; Low-fat diets; high fat diets; crash diets; detox diets.  And, of course, the Metabolic typing diet ([Atkinson, 2008, pages 50-54]: which I tried but found both unhelpful to me, and difficult to implement).

Dr Atkinson’s general (non-metabolic typing) advice is probably sound:  He suggests that we: …

…End of extract number two.


Endnotes for extract number one:

[1] Dr Daniel Amen (2012) Use your brain to change your life. London: Piatkus.

[2] Edwards, M. (2014) ‘The candida depression connection – How yeast leads to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental disorders’. Available online at:        https://www.naturalnews.com/047184_ candida_ depression_gut_microbes.html#

[3] Kris Carr; cited in: Pinnock, D. (2015) Anxiety and Depression: Eat your way to better health. London: Quadrille Publishing.

[4] Redfern, R. (2016) The importance of nutrition for mental health. Naturally Healthy News, issue 30, 2016.

[5] Dr Daniel Amen (2012) Use your Brain to Change your Life. London: Piatkus.

[6] Enders, G. (2015) Gut: The inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ.  Scribe Publications.

[7] Waite, M. (2012) Paperback Oxford English Dictionary.  Seventh edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[8] Brewer, S. (2013) Nutrition: A beginners guide. London: Oneworld Publications.

[9] “Protein is a macronutrient necessary for the proper growth and function of the human body. A deficiency in protein leads to muscle atrophy and impaired functioning of the human body in general.

“Athletes and those looking to build muscle might benefit from increased protein intake, but they should be aware of the risks. Excess protein is typically processed by the body, but may cause a strain on the liver and kidneys, and may also increase cancer risk (particularly from animal sources).

“The Daily Value (%DV) for protein is set at 50 grams per day, but individuals with more muscle mass may require more.

“Foods highest in protein per calorie include fish, cheese, turkey, chicken, lean beef, pork, tofu, yogurt, milk, beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, and seeds”.  Source:   https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-highest-in-protein.php

Protein is constructed in all plants, using nitrogen and carbon from the atmosphere and the soil.  When those plants are eaten by animals, the proteins are concentrated in the animal muscle and animal products.  But seeds, nuts and some vegetables are high in protein in their own right.  Animal products are ‘not essential’, according to the China Study! But a ‘low meat and other animals products’ diet might be the most sensible compromise in terms of avoiding protein deficiency. But you have to find out for yourself, by experimentation, what works for your body!


[10] “Carbohydrates are found in almost all living things and play a critical role in the proper functioning of the immune system, fertilization, blood clotting, and human development. A deficiency of carbohydrates can lead to impaired functioning of all these systems, however, in the Western world, deficiency is rare. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates like sugar or corn syrup, can lead to obesity, type II diabetes, and cancer. Unhealthy high carbohydrate foods include sugary cereals, crackers, cakes, flours, jams, preserves, bread products, refined potato products, and sugary drinks. Healthy high carbohydrate foods include vegetables, legumes (beans), whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt. “ Source: https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-highest-in-carbohydrates.php


[11] “Fat is a type of nutrient, and just like protein and carbohydrates, your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, and to protect your heart and brain health. Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the health and waistline wars. “Bad” fats, such as artificial trans-fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and so forth. But “good” fats such as unsaturated fats and omega-3s have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight”. Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/choosing-healthy-fats.htm


[12] Definition: “Vitamins are nutrients your body needs to function and fight off disease. Your body cannot produce vitamins itself, so you must get them through food you eat or in some cases supplements. There are 13 vitamins that are essential to your body working well. Knowledge of the different types and understanding the purpose of these vitamins are important for good health.

“There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your fat cells, consequently requiring fat in order to be absorbed. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in your body; therefore, they need to be replenished daily. Your body takes what it needs from the food you eat and then excretes what is not needed as waste. Here is a list of some vitamin types and common food sources:

“Fat-Soluble Vitamins

“Vitamin A – comes from orange coloured fruits and vegetables; dark leafy greens, like kale

Vitamin D – can be found in fortified milk and dairy products; cereals; (and of course, sunshine!)

Vitamin E – is found in fortified cereals; leafy green vegetables; seeds; nuts

Vitamin K – can be found in dark green leafy vegetables; turnip/beet greens

“Water-Soluble Vitamins:

Vitamin B1, or Thiamin – comes from whole grains; enriched grains; liver; nuts; seeds

Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin – comes from whole grains; enriched grains; dairy products

Vitamin B3, or Niacin – comes from meat; fish; poultry; whole grains

Vitamin B5, or Pantothenic Acid – comes from meat; poultry; whole grains

Vitamin B6, or Pyridoxine – comes from fortified cereals; soy products

Vitamin B7, or Biotin – is found in fruits; meats

Vitamin B9, or Folic Acid (Folate) – comes from leafy vegetables

Vitamin B12 – comes from fish; poultry; meat; dairy products

Vitamin C – comes from citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruits; red, yellow, and green peppers”.  Source: http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-are-vitamins-definition-types-purpose-examples.html.  Accessed: 14th November 2017.

But because our food is largely denatured, and most people do not know what nutrients they are getting from their food, it makes sense to take a complete multivitamin, a B-complex, and extra vitamin C in supplement form, every day.

[13] “A list of minerals in foods may not necessarily include all of the minerals needed for health and wellness. There are 14 considered in the list below (which includes common minerals, like iron, copper, zinc, selenium, and so on – JWB). These 14 minerals are divided into two types: Macro minerals and trace minerals. A mineral is considered a macro mineral if your body requires over 100 mg of that particular element. Less than 100 mg and it’s considered a trace element. Both types of minerals are important for health, but the body needs far greater amounts of macro minerals than trace minerals. The best source for both macro and trace minerals is whole foods containing plant digested minerals.

“The levels of all of minerals in foods vary depending on the nutrients of the soil where the food is grown. In the case of meats, the levels of minerals in the meat correspond directly to the amount of minerals contained in the plants that the animals have eaten.” Source: http://www.wellness-with-natural-health-supplements.com/list-of-minerals-in-foods.html


Endnotes for extract number two:

[14] Here is the reference for a much later book by Chaitow: Chaitow, L. (2003) Candida Albicans: The non-drug approach to the treatment of Candida infection. London: Thorsons.

[15] Two additional sources on Candida Albicans and the link to physical illness and emotional distress:

Jacobs, G. (1994) Candida Albicans: A user’s guide to treatment and recovery. London: Optima. And:

Trowbridge, J.P. and Walker, M. (1989) The Yeast Syndrome. London: Bantam Books.

[16] Golomb, B.A., Evans, M.A., White, H.L., and Dimsdale, J.E. (2012) Trans-fat consumption and aggression. Online: PLoS One. 2012; 7(3):e32175. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0032175. Epub 2012 Mar 5.