For many people, food is a means to an end. Rarely do we have time to stop and reflect on what we are putting into our mouths and what its effects might be.

This is set to change as we become increasingly aware of just how much food affects our mental and physical health.

Next weekend, at the Natural Trade Show in Brighton, local nutritional therapist Amanda Geary will be given a top award for her pioneering work in the field of diet, nutrition and emotional and mental health.

Following her own recovery from ill-health, Amanda founded the Food And Mood project in conjunction with MIND, the mental health charity.

She started running workshops above a health food shop in Brighton to share her own experience of recovery through dietary and nutritional self-help, empowering others to do the same.

Last year, Amanda cond-ucted a national survey to find out what kind of dietary strategies people were using and the benefits of doing so.

She discovered that up to 80 per cent of the participants believed their own nutritional self-help strategies significantly improved their mood.

Two strategies mentioned most often were cutting down on caffeine and sugar. Said one participant: "Try something just for a week, no sugar or caffeine for example. It is such an eye-opener."

Other helpful strategies included drinking more water, eating regular meals and snacks, having breakfast and planning and preparing meals in advance.

Many people also found nutritional supplements of benefit - the most frequently listed were essential fatty acids followed by herbal supplements such as St John's Wort and Kava.

Amanda set about distributing information and advice to hundreds of individuals. She produced quarterly newsletters, reports, booklets and an informative web site: www.foodand She also hosted the successful Food And Mood conference in London in September, 2002, and findings from her research were incorporated into a practical guide called The Food And Mood Handbook (published by Thorsons).

It explains how the constituents in food can contribute to depression, anxiety, PMS, cravings, aggression and mood swings and how to change what we eat to improve how we feel.

The simple "Mind Meal", for instance, consists of wheat-free pasta with pesto sauce and oil-rich fish, avocado salad and seeds plus a fruit and oatcake dessert. It is wheat-free and low in sugar, caffeine and additives.

The meal has a low-glycaemic index and contains important mental- health nutrients including omega-3 oils, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan.

Amanda has just produced the colourful and innovative Food And Mood Poster (£4.95, inc p&p) to hang on your fridge or cupboard as a reminder of how to gain a greater sense of calmness and control, positive moods, clearer thinking and more energy, purely by changing a few aspects of your diet.

Says Amanda: "It has been a lot of hard work but I know the Food And Mood project has made a real difference to the lives of a lot of people."

For more information about the poster and book, contact The Food And Mood Project, PO Box 2737, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2GN, or visit the web site at