A Growing Link Between Nutrition and Mental Health

That's it. ·

There’s no denying it: 2020 has been a challenging year. At a time when outside stressors are higher than ever, it’s important to take controllable steps to strengthen our mental health wherever we can. One area in the mental health space gaining increased attention in recent years is Nutritional Psychiatry – an area that specifically examines the link between nutrition and metal health. Studies in the Nutritional Psychiatry field show consistent evidence that what you eat can have a direct impact on your mental wellbeing. Some scientists even believe that diet can be as important to one’s mental health as it is their physical health, with an unhealthy diet now considered by some as a risk factor for certain mood disorders such as depression and anxiety[1].

While additional research is still needed before absolute causation can be determined, many researchers continue to find that sticking to a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are linked a decrease in mood disorders[2].

This connection appears to be linked to two main areas:

The connection between the brain and the gastrointestinal track:

Trust (and take care of) your gut! Studies have shown a close relationship between the brain and the gastrointestinal track, causing many to believe that the digestive system isn’t just for digesting food – it’s also essential in guiding emotions. According to the American Psychological Association, the gut produces 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin, the chemical responsible for assisting with sleep, appetite, moods, and the pain regulation[3]. Maintaining a healthy gut is essential to ensure that the body can produce the serotonin it needs accomplish these tasks. On the other hand, when the gut is inflamed by unhealthy, processed foods, it becomes more difficult for the microbiome to create and maintain the chemicals and healthy bacteria it requires to thrive[4].


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Negative impact of inflammation caused by unhealthy foods:

Researchers have found that inflammatory foods commonly found in the Western diet (such as refined grains, fried food, sweets, dairy, and sugary drinks) are tied to a higher risk of mood disorders. In contrast, a diet of whole, healthy foods packed with anti-inflammatory healthy fats and antioxidants has been tied to a decrease in risk for depression. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods with properties that nourish the brain appear to be essential to improving the body’s ability to fight off certain mood disorders. Some good news: enabling your body to do so can be as manageable as making a few healthy additions throughout the day. Some of our favorite healthy fats? Try avocados, extra virgin olive oil, or salmon. Meanwhile, berries, beans, apples and citrus are some of the best sources for antioxidants[5].

Although this continues to be a rapidly developing area and additional research is still needed, studies indicate that sticking to a healthy diet can be linked to less mood fluctuations and an overall improved outlook on life[6]. In a year full of unprecedented stress and uncertainty, that’s something that we can all get behind.




[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

[2] https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health

[3] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

[4] https://www.sutterhealth.org/health/nutrition/eating-well-for-mental-health#:~:text=From%20a%20young%20age%2C%20we,improve%20concentration%20and%20attention%20span.

[5] https://www.health.com/nutrition/nutritional-psychiatry

[6] https://www.aetna.com/health-guide/food-affects-mental-health.html#:~:text=When%20you%20stick%20to%20a,symptoms%20of%20depression%20and%20anxiety.