The Impact of Nutrition on Mental Health

Food and nutrition are important factors that can affect the status of a person’s mental health. In fact, in a 2019 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that an increased fruit and vegetable diet led to positive impacts on a person’s psychological health. Nutrition and mental health create a symbiotic relationship.

The foods we consume can play an important role in our mental wellbeing. A balanced diet of veggies, fruits, whole grains, and good fatty acids with low animal product intake can help reduce the risk of depression. In turn, the status of our mental health can affect how well we eat and treat our bodies. A person who maintains a healthy psychological state of mind is likelier to engage in positive behaviors such as eating nutrient-dense foods, practicing good sleeping habits and staying physically active.

An assortment of various fruits and veggies laid out on a table representing the impact of nutrition on mental health.

According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression are among the most commonly occurring mental health condition worldwide with depression as one of the leading causes of poor health. Scientists and researchers believe these mental health conditions will become a public health challenge and top concern by 2030. Other common mental health conditions worldwide include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How do nutrition and a balanced diet affect Mental Health?

Multiple studies have proven that nutrition can greatly contribute to the status and development of mental behavior disorders. And as the number of mental health conditions is increasing, the nutritional content of our food is slowly decreasing. A typical American diet consists of high red and processed meats, refined grains and sugar-dense foods. These types of foods have all been linked to increased depression.

In general, people are consuming less fiber and nutrient-rich foods than are recommended. They are, however, consuming more sugar, fat, salt and processed foods. The bag of chips may make you feel great at the moment, but in the long run, it could lead to a whole host of physical and psychological issues.

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Studies have shown that daily supplements or intake of essential vitamins and minerals are highly effective in reducing symptoms of depression and other mental health illnesses. A healthy and balanced diet provides adequate vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and whole grains that help reduce inflammation and alter brain neurotransmitters. This helps to reduce symptoms of depression. 

Some diets such as the Mediterranean diet, which consists of more veggies, fish and healthy fats, can significantly help reduce negative psychological patterns and symptoms. The Mediterranean diet helps mental health symptoms improve over time through the help of nutrient-packed foods feeding the brain and body.

Oftentimes people who are suffering from a mental health condition develop a poor appetite. They are more likely to skip meals and have an overwhelming desire for sweet food. Poor eating habits mean consuming fewer nutrients and can deprive the brain and body of vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy and balanced. And for those people who experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, they often turn to “comfort food” such as snacks with poor nutritional value. These types of “snacks” create further discomfort and enhance any negative pre-existing mental health symptoms.

Macronutrients and Micronutrients that Contribute to Psychological Wellbeing

  • Zinc – A deficiency in zinc can be linked to the severity of depressive symptoms, which then leads to supplementation through anti-depressant medications.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D has also been proven to help reduce inflammation in the brain and the symptoms of depression. It can also lessen feelings of irritability and weakness. Vitamin D-rich foods include milk, mushrooms and salmon.
  • Vitamin B and B12 – Vitamin B and B12 help to improve mood and other cognitive functions of the frontal lobe of the brain.
  • Amino Acids – Many of the neurotransmitters in the brain are made up of amino acids, which in turn create protein. A lack of amino acids means the brain is unable to synthesize more neurotransmitters. This is often associated with a negative mood and aggression. On the opposite matter, an excessive amount of amino acid buildup can lead to brain damage and mental retardation.
  • Folic Acid – Recommended levels of folic acid can help boost the effectiveness of anti-depressant medications and therapy.  
  • Fiber – Fruits and veggies are good sources of fiber. High-fiber diets have been linked to reduced stress and depression due to their anti-inflammatory effects on the brain and body.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acid – The brain needs fat to survive and properly function. Omega 3 essential fatty acid is a nutrient that the human body cannot produce naturally. Therefore, it must be consumed through food and supplements. The anti-inflammatory properties support brain health, which reduces symptoms of anxiety. Omega 3 fats can be found in fish oil, flaxseed, nuts and avocado.
  • Antioxidants – Antioxidants can play a huge factor in the development of mental health conditions. Spices such as turmeric, rosemary, oregano, garlic and ginger are great at boosting antioxidants in the body.

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Hotel California by the Sea offers substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health treatment for men, women and young adults. Through various levels of care including detox, residential, outpatient and aftercare, clients will receive evidence-based treatment.

Hotel California by the Sea specializes in treating co-occurring mental health conditions. Oftentimes, clients with a substance addiction will also have concurrent psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. Effective treatment will include a holistic approach that incorporates a diverse range of treatments addressing different aspects of addiction. Specialized treatments such as CBT, EMDR therapy and family counseling help clients understand the depths of their addiction.The substance and alcohol use disorder treatment program provides the tools and resources clients need to overcome their addiction.