The event was held to raise funds for the critical work of the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group. We ask that viewers watch this video on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ basis by donating to the Givealittle page below.

About our speakers

Julia Rucklidge

Julia is a Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychology and the Director of the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group, running clinical trials investigating the role of broad-spectrum micronutrients in the expression of mental illness.

Ben warren

With over 15 years of experience, Ben Warren - founder of BePure - is one of New Zealand's leading nutritionists and holistic health experts.


Sarah is a bestselling author and founder of Most recently, she published ‘First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, A New Story of Anxiety.’

Key takeaway points

We’ve set out some key takeaway points from Food For Thought (as interpreted by the New Zealand Wellness Association team).  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure and does not replace the advice of a health professional.

Sarah Wilson – ‘Learnings from living with anxiety’

Many leaders have had mental disorders that were partly responsible for their effectiveness and there appears to be an evolutionary advantage in a small percentage of the population having these disorders – Sarah believes there must be a reason for anxiety.  So perhaps we don’t want to eradicate anxiety altogether.  Instead, learn not only to live with anxiety, but to thrive with it.

Sugar is one of the biggest issues behind inflammatory diseases, and inflammation in the gut causes ‘fire’ in the brain.

Connections between sugar and mood:

·      Sugary foods lead to unstable blood sugars.

·      High sugar diets can contribute to dysbiosis, leading to inflammation.

·      Sugar damages the gut lining, which may lead to autoimmune reactions, leading to inflammation.

·      Sugar depletes B vitamins which are linked to mood stabilisation (similarly with chromium).

·      Sugar (namely fructose) fundamentally dysregulates our appetite hormones.

Cultural factors

We’re experiencing a culture of ‘clutching out’ for external comfort, expecting that the ‘fix’ is ‘out there’.  Instead, sit in the discomfort and ‘do’ the anxiety once.

Do the work with a whole bunch of little, right moves.  Sarah recommends the following:

·      Walking – calms anxiety and encourages discerning thought.

·      Meditation – create your internal anchor to keep yourself as stable and grounded as possible.

·      Learn to cook - in a simple way so that you can eat real, whole foods.

Great foods to include:

·      Turmeric – which helps to reduce inflammation (must be in a bioavailable form alongside saturated fat).

·      Long chain, omega three fatty acids - if eating meat, eat grass-fed meat (to obtain the omega 3 fatty acids), avoid grain-fed meat.

·      Turkey, tahini and other amino acids that are pre-cursers to your neurotransmitters 

·      [Note: Sarah states on her blog that she also takes magnesium to help manage her anxiety.]

Having a chronic anxiety disorder is like carrying a shallow bowl of water around - it’s a responsibility to keep things stable by using these approaches to wellness.

Prof. Julia Rucklidge – ‘A New Mental Health Paradigm: Innovations in Nutritional Therapy’

New Zealand is experiencing a ‘treatment gap’ between the number of psychiatrists compared with the demand for their services.  We need to be looking for further tools to address this gap.

The role of micronutrients

·      A well-nourished body and brain is better able to withstand ongoing stress and recover from mental illness.

·      Sometimes diet alone can’t get us to meet our nutrient requirements.

·      Taking appropriate levels of micronutrients is an effective and inexpensive public health intervention to improve the mental health of a population following a natural disaster.

·      There is not a ‘magic bullet’ micronutrient.  A broad spectrum of micronutrients is required, often at dosages much higher than what is available in supermarket ‘one a day’ formulations.

·      Micronutrients have minimal side effects with no habituation.

·      Getting the right nutrients gives a person the capacity to make further, beneficial lifestyle changes, leading to a positive, upward spiral in their health.

What’s in a broad-spectrum?

·      Vitamins like A, C, D, E, B1-B12

·      Minerals like Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Iodine, Magnesium, Chromium, Molybdenum, Potassium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese

·      Amino acids like alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, L-methionine, N-acetyl-cysteine, Glutamine

·      Often at doses higher than RDA

Some other factors to consider for each individual and need further research:

·      Whether inflamed guts affect the absorption of foods.

·      Whether the microbiome balance affects absorption and needs.

·      Whether mitochondria have been affected by reduced nutrients.

·      The role of genetics in determining our micronutrient requirements.

Ben Warren - ‘BePure essentials for supporting mental wellness’

1.     Destress - practice mindfulness (try using ‘Insight Timer’), build structure into your life, have a conscious belief system (whether that’s a sense of community or spiritual belief).

2.     Breathe diaphragmatically.

3.     Exercise right for you (at least 30 minutes a day).

4.     Look after your microbiome – eat fermented foods daily, such as raw milk, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar (raw/unpasteurised); and feed the beneficial bacteria with prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans).  Move away from processed sugar as this feeds the harmful bacteria.

5.     Eat a whole food diet - processed foods don’t provide the vitamins and minerals that whole foods do. Move away from processed sugar (which has the biggest negative impact on our microbiome) and processed grains.

6.     Include a high-quality multivitamin daily – one example of a common vitamin deficiency is vitamin D which is very important in supporting mental wellness (84% of New Zealanders are deficient in vitamin D).

Factors that increase the need for supplementation include modern farming techniques; modern food conveniences; increased stress; decreased absorption; environmental toxicity increases the nutrient requirements of the liver; lack of whole, nutrient-dense foods; and optimal nutrient levels are above baseline and RDA.

7.     Balance Omega 3/Omega 6 fatty acids in the body – which helps to reduce inflammation (note that evening primrose oil is a beneficial omega 6 fatty acid). Reduce cereals, breads and processed foods.  Eat small oily fish and green leafy vegetables and consider a high-quality omega 3 supplement.