Healthy Eating Improves Mental Health

You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. People who eat unhealthy foods tend to have a lower level of overall physical health than people who adhere to a healthier diet. In recent years, researchers have found a link between diet and mood, suggesting that diets higher in nutritional value can protect individuals from the negative effects of stress, depression, and even anxiety. These mental health problems directly decrease physical health. Thus, understanding how nutrients affect mental health could help individuals improve their physical health as well. Recent studies have shown that whole, unprocessed foods help decrease symptoms of depression, and people who incorporate large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables have lower levels of stress and anxiety than those who avoid leafy greens. In a recent study, Karen M. Davison, PhD and RD, of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in Women’s Health in Vancouver explored how specific nutrients affect mood.

Davison evaluated 97 adults who had been diagnosed with bipolar, depression, or anxiety and assessed their severity of symptoms and their typical diet. She measured their intake of medication, whole or processed foods, and specific macro and micronutrients. Davison found that the participants who consumed the highest levels of nutrients exhibited the highest levels of mental health. Specifically, the study showed that the depressive symptoms were lowest in those who included high levels of iron in their diets, and those with mania had fewer manic episodes when they increased the amount of zinc in their daily diets. Additionally, Davison discovered that including vitamins B6, B12, and folate improved the overall mental health in the participants, perhaps because it aids in the production of serotonin. Individuals with anxiety saw a reduction in symptoms when they consumed a healthy intake of linoleic acid, fat, and carbohydrates, along with other essential minerals and vitamins. Although these results support prior research, Davison believes more exploration is needed to determine the most effective way to incorporate these elements into a diet to improve mood.

Davison, K. M., and Kaplan, B. J. (2012). Nutrient intakes are correlated with overall psychiatric functioning in adults with mood disorders. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57.2, 85-92.

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  • Elle

    March 15th, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    I am a firm believer in the power of putting good healthy foods in our bodies. I wish that we could do a better job getting this message across to our kids, and that all has to start at home. I know that it is hard to tell your kids, no you can’t have that, let’s have this instead. But that is all a part of teaching them about responsible eating and responsible choices.

  • jude

    March 15th, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    all the good things are pretty easy to procure and is our want of packaged everything and processed everything that make things worse.

  • Lori

    March 16th, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    maybe the first lady should add this bonus information to her attempts to stop childhood obesity

  • Anna Rush

    March 16th, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    This society today is so fast paced and go, go go that it is hard to resist the lure of the fast food options. But after reading this little bit, I see that our food is probably responsible for most of the things that ail us, and if we would just try a little more to be better aware of the food choices that we are making then we would all feel a whole lot better!

  • William D

    March 16th, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Like most everyone today I am concerned about the foods that I eat and that which I buy for my own family and kids. The problem that I see with this for a lot of other families though is that sometimes healthy options are not the most affordable options. It can be pretty expensive to always buy fresh as produce today is outrageously expensive! While that thankfully is not an issue for me, don’t you know that for many families that could be a huge concern? Sometimes, while we all know it is going to harm the families who choose to eat fast food all of the time, for them it makes sense in the moment because quite honestly it is cheap and accessible. Food for thought I suppose.

  • charlesmcbridez

    March 17th, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    We still need to feed our family healthy, well-balanced meals while keeping to a set budget. Change is the hardest thing and trying to do everything at once will have most people quitting before they even begin. You can get samples from sites like “Get Official Samples” where you can find all samples

  • Cara

    March 17th, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    So I have been thin, then fat, then thin again.
    I can’t say I have necessarily felt any mentally sharper when I eat better. But I do know that think better about myself and that is important.
    I know that patients who have mental disorders should not only depend on medication or even therapy to get them through their illness.
    And I can completely buy into the notion that if you feed your body better foods then it is going to be better to you.
    That does not mean that you will automatically be cured but maybe it will give you the energy to cope with your illness in a stronger way.

  • Gracie

    March 17th, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Firm believer here though that these nutrients have to obtained from the food product itself instead of handy dandy supplements. People think that they can pop a pill or mix some powder up and that will do the trick, but to get the most benefit you have to get it from the source!

  • Lizz

    March 18th, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    The very feeling after a big meal at a fast food place makes me feel low and lethargic…Lets not start to list out how bad it is for your health…!

  • musette

    March 18th, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    I came to this game late, I admit, because I have never given any thought to how menatl health affects your physical health, or even how the food that I eat has such an impact on my life. But here I find a great article talking about just that same thing after my internist and I had a similar conversation just a few days ago. He was encouraging me to change my diet, and that by doing so I would see some real life changes but I was not really buying into it. I guess a lot of it had to do with things I did not want to hear. Who wants to make these kids of changes so late late in life? But if it will help me to have the years that I have left in better health than I have been recently, then I am willing to try. He will be happy.

  • Marie

    March 19th, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    I have come to the conclusion that although this is the path to wellness that I have chosen for myself, it has to be an individual decision. No matter who much we want everyone to take care of themselves and lead healthier lives, we can’t police everyone and everyone has to come to this decision on their own. I want them to exercise and good foods and model that behavior to their friends and family but it is not a choice for everyone. If they aren’t ready to hear the message I fear it goes in one ear and out the other,.

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