Link Between Nutrition and Mental Health

Learn more about the link between nutrition and mental health and how dietary changes can impact mental well-being.

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A look into Nutrition and Mental Health

It is widely known and accepted that eating a balanced diet can enhance a person’s physical wellness, as food contains crucial nutrients that help the body grow faster and protect it against illness. Well-rounded nutrition is also an essential component of mental development and maintaining a healthy mind. Read on in this article to learn more about the connection between nutrition and mental health.

How are Nutrition and Mental Health Linked?

The field of nutrition studies how food provides the essential nutrients required by the body and its organs to function perfectly. Aside from physical growth, human beings require psychological, emotional, and social well-being. Studies have shown that improving diet can not only boost and improve one’s physical health but also one’s mental health.

The human brain works round the clock, controls all the cells and organs in the body, coordinates thoughts, and controls the heartbeat and breathing. This constant function of the brain demands proper care of the brain, hence the importance of eating food to improve mental health.

The Science Behind Food and Mood

There is a symbiotic relationship between food and mood. There is an old adage that states, “a hungry man is an angry man.” This phrase implies that when someone is hungry or not properly fed, his mood can be significantly impacted. This adage explains the relationship between nutrition and mental health.

The human digestive system contains good bacteria that prompt the operations of chemical transmitters, such as serotonin. Serotonin sends messages to the human brain and controls digestion, sexual desires, wound healing, and mood. Studies have estimated that ninety percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. Proper nutrition enhances the growth of these good bacteria, which increases serotonin production, causing the brain to receive positive messages and produce more positive emotions.1

Different Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health Through Eating

There is a wide variety of ways to take care of your mental health through food. Being aware of these different methods can help people pay more attention to what they are putting in their bodies and to make necessary changes to improve both their mental and physical well-being.

Mindful Eating

Being more aware of what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, and why you eat is called mindful eating, and it can be an essential part of improving mental health. Mindful eating requires you to be conscious of these factors, including how your food is prepared and served. Oftentimes, people eat for several other reasons aside from being hungry, such as emotional satisfaction, stress relief, or boredom, which can negatively affect physical and mental health in the long term. 2

Mindful eating helps create a healthier relationship with your diet. It also lets you know how to choose food that makes you feel better. Being mindful and eating good food for mental health and physical improvement is incredibly important.

Drink Sensibly

Excessive consumption of alcohol is extremely common in people who struggle with various mental health conditions. People drink to relieve stress or anxiety; however, drinking too much triggers stress, mood swings, anxiety, and other symptoms of poor mental health.

As a result, it is recommended that you drink water regularly for appropriate nutrition and improved mental health, and if you plan to drink alcohol, drink responsibly.

Sharing Meals with Other People

Eating with family, friends, colleagues, and other loved ones can boost mood, reduce stress, and strengthen relationships. The camaraderie and social components of shared meals can have a positive effect on one’s mental health.

Five Foods to Incorporate into a Healthy Mental Diet

The brain depends on proper nutrition to function effectively, meaning that you must be consuming foods that support brain health. In order to consume meals that adequately support both mental and physical health, some “mental health foods” must be present in your daily diet.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are necessary for sustaining energy, regulating blood sugar, and helping you feel satisfied for longer than simple carbohydrates. Some good sources of complex carbohydrates are whole grains and starchy vegetables. 3

MET vs. Traditional TherapyLean Proteins

Lean proteins are low in calories and saturated fats, and they allow the brain to think and react more quickly and effectively. Good sources of lean protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, and eggs.

Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are mental health foods that enhance cell membrane formation and hormone building and production to help the brain function. Fatty acids can be found in eggs, seafood, and plant oils.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are crucial to staying healthy and ensuring that your body can fight off diseases. Vitamins have two groups—fat-soluble and water-soluble. Milk, butter, and meats are good sources of fat-soluble vitamins. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of water-soluble vitamins. Good sources of minerals include meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and fortified cereals. 4

Nutritional Psychiatry

There is a wide variety of potential mental health conditions that each require different approaches for their treatment and maintenance. As a result, nutritional psychiatry offers an alternative treatment for mental health disorders that primarily focuses on the effects of a person’s diet on their mental health. Nutritional psychiatry makes dietary prescriptions and encourages the adoption of nutritional supplements to help support mental well-being.

How the Food You Eat Affects How You Feel

The food you eat has a direct effect on the brain, which generally impacts how you feel. What you eat and its nutritional content affect both emotional and physical health. Improper diet can lead to less-than-optimal functioning of your organs, which in turn will negatively affect your mental health.

When you stick to a well-balanced diet, you may see reduced mood swings, an improved ability to focus, more positive feelings, and an overall happier demeanor. Studies have shown that the food we eat directly affects how we feel and that eating healthy diets helps with the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

What Does Nutrition Psychiatry Mean for You?

Dietary habits influence the operations of both the physical and cognitive systems. Nutritional psychology seeks to understand this influence by focusing on the link between food, mood, and cognition.

Nutritional psychology focuses on the power of healthy nutrients to support mental health. This could enable you to use a proper diet and healthy foods to boost your mental well-being as well as better understand how dietary habits or specific foods can affect you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since the link between nutrition and mental health is typically not the focus of therapy, there are many questions surrounding how dietary changes can positively impact both the mind and the body.

How Can I Use Food and Nutrition to Improve My Mood?

The food you eat significantly affects how you feel. For instance, if you turn to food when you need comfort, you may see an increase in positive emotions after consuming the “comfort food” of your choice, which may improve your mental health. On the other hand, you may experience negative emotions due to eating for comfort if it leads to a decrease in self-esteem.

The foods you eat must contain the appropriate quantity, quality, and composition of nutrients to support your diet and mental health. Making conscious choices to regularly consume nutrient-dense foods and be mindful about what you are putting in your body can lead to an overall improvement in both mental and physical health.

Do I Need to Change My Eating Habits to Feel Better?

Changing your eating habits can be an essential component of feeling better and supporting your mental health. Eating well, eating at the right time, and sharing meals with others can improve your general well-being.

How Does Poor Nutrition Affect Mental Health?

When you do not eat well, your immune system slows down, leaving you tired and unable to concentrate. Eating food with the proper nutrients is recommended to boost and improve your mental health.

How Does Nutrition Relate to Psychology?

Nutritional psychology helps you understand how the food you eat affects your mood, emotions, behaviors, experiences, and other cognitive operations. A proper diet enhances positive cognitive operations, while poor nutrition may weaken them.

Get Help with Your Nutrition and Mental Health at Soledad House

If you are interested in exploring how long-term changes to your diet could improve your mental health and overall well-being, the professionals at Soledad House may be able to help. At Soledad House, we have highly-trained therapists that can help you take responsibility for your mental health through nutritional psychology. We offer recovery programs for women in San Diego, where women struggling with various disorders can find a safe and supportive space for healing and development.

We aim to provide you with lasting changes to your spiritual, emotional, and mental health. Our comprehensive care will equip you with the practical knowledge to take responsibility for your nutrition and mental health and live a better life with the right diet.

Reach Out for Optimal Wellness

Our professionals are here to help you get mentally fit via our individual, group, family, and meditation programs. Please contact Soledad House today for more information on nutrition and mental health and how nutritional psychology could benefit you.