Have You Ever Wondered How Much Your Diet Affects Your Mental Health?

By Reniel


Last Updated: December 29, 2021

Eating a balanced diet goes a long way to improving your physical health and general wellbeing.

Healthy eating is essential in regulating blood sugar, boosting immunity, supporting muscle function, and maintaining a healthy weight.

You may not know this, but the food you eat also impacts your mental health. According to research, diet and nutrition influence various aspects of your cognitive functions and mental state, including mood, memory, intelligence, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Conversely, a lack of certain nutrients in your diet can lead to various mental health problems. Dietary deficiencies can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and cognitive fatigue.

This post explores the possibility of a link between food and mental health. It also explains how diet and nutrition might influence mental health. 


Is there a link between food and mental health?

According to Harvard Medical School, your brain is always active, and it requires "fuel" to continue functioning optimally. The energy that your brain needs to perform its functions comes from your food intake.

With that said, the quality and the nutritional content of the food matters as far as your mental health is concerned. A well-balanced diet consisting of Omega-3, vitamins, plant-based antioxidants, amino acids, minerals, and macrobiotics is ideal for your cognitive function and overall mental health.

A poor diet promotes oxidative stress and inflammation, leading to impaired brain function and depression. Various studies suggest that consuming poor-quality diets such as refined sugars, highly processed meats, and high-fat dairy products can lead to adverse mental health outcomes such as depression.

In a meta-analysis on Dietary Patterns and Depression Risk, research was pulled from 21 studies in 10 countries, that pointed to a pattern that high intakes of fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and whole grains reduced the risk of depression.

However, these studies only show a link between food and mental health without proving cause or effect.

Even though research is ongoing, the current findings suggest a strong association between food and mental health.


Does food help prevent mental conditions?

Food and mental health have a symbiotic relationship. In any case, the nutrition in the food you eat influences your mental state, mood, and cognitive function. And as you know, consuming a healthy diet can have a protective effect on your mental health.

With that in mind, researchers are mulling over the possibility of using diet and nutrition (nutritional psychiatry) to prevent and treat various mental health conditions. 

Undoubtedly, current therapies and medications for mental conditions are helpful, but they are becoming ineffective with time. For this reason, researchers are advocating for nutritional psychiatry to treat and prevent mental illnesses.


Foods that boost mental health

Some foods and beverages such as caffeine and chocolate may trick your brain into releasing chemicals it thinks your body is lacking while it's not.

Others may prevent the gut from converting food into nutrients your brain requires. For this reason, it is essential to monitor what to eat for your mental health and overall wellbeing.

Foods rich in vitamin B, folic acid, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and magnesium are ideal for improving mental health. 

Here is a list of some foods that you can eat to boost your mental health:

  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Pumpkin
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Salmon

Avoid skipping meals. Instead, ensure that you eat at set intervals throughout the day.


Bottom line

A healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats can help improve various mental issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety. 

Healthy nutrition is ideal for your mood and your mental health. What you eat significantly influences your physical and psychological wellbeing, and dietary deficiencies can increase the onset and effects of chronic mental illnesses.

With this in mind, you should watch your diet to ensure that whatever you consume has all the nutritional benefits your brain needs for optimal functionality.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash


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