Can Nutrition Affect Your Mental Health?

Depression and other mental health issues are generally thought of as biochemical-based or emotionally rooted. Many people don’t know that evidence shows that your eating habits are closely linked to mental health. Things like skipping meals, poor appetite, and a desire for unhealthy foods can play a large role.[1,2,3] 

Here we shed some light on how nutrition can affect your mental health and offer some tips on nutritional changes you can make to support your mental health. Keep reading to find out more.

The Link Between Your Diet and Mental Health

There’s a new field emerging called nutritional psychiatry. Its focus is on how diet and nutrition affect how we feel mentally. Its goal is to support the treatment of conditions with lifestyle and diet changes.[2]

When we look at the bigger picture there are many areas of the world that have a population that is often deficient in many nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that patients suffering from mental health conditions often possess a nutrient deficiency.[3] 

What many people don’t know is that our gut is strongly linked to our brain. This is also known as the “gut-brain axis.” Your gut houses trillions of living microbes—or “good” bacteria—that play a role in many functions of the body. One of those functions is synthesising neurotransmitters that send chemical messages to the brain. These messages help regulate sleep, appetite, mood, and emotion.[4,5,6]

While there is still a lot to learn, research has given some insight into how the foods we eat directly influence the health of our gut microbe colonies. This can result in those colonies influencing our brains and, in turn, our mental health.[6,7,8,9]

So what can you do to support your nutritional needs, your gut, and your mental health?

Nutrition Tips to Support Mental Health

There are some changes you can make to your diet in order to support your well-being and mental health. It is suggested to try a variety of healthy nutrients rather than just one, as the quality of your diet overall is important.

Nutrients

There are some nutrients that are more notably connected to your mental health than others. Here are a few:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin A 
  • Vitamin C

Supplements

You can find the nutrients listed above in a variety of different foods. But if you need a little extra help in filling the gap, you may want to try supplementing.

Studies have suggested that daily supplements of vital nutrients are effective most of the time in reducing symptoms of mental health conditions. This is especially true of supplements containing amino acids. Amino acids are converted to neurotransmitters which help alleviate depression and other mental health issues.[3]

If you’re lacking in any of the nutrients mentioned above, HeyNutrition’s line of premium holistic supplements may be of interest to you. If you’re lacking in…

  • Omega-3: Try our Omega-3 Fish Oil. It is crafted with clinically recommended doses of EPA and DHA, which have been shown to support cognitive function.
  • Magnesium and Zinc: Try our Magnesium Complex with added Zinc. Our highly bioavailable formula helps to promote normal psychological functioning, among other cognitive benefits.
  • Vitamin C: Try our Natural Vitamin C Complex. Vitamin C has been found to help improve cognitive and psychological performance, which helps to stabilise mood, among other benefits.
  • A Variety of Nutrients: Try our Advanced Multivitamin. Our formula, containing 13 essential ingredients, helps to promote brain health, including supporting mental health.

Remember how we talked about your gut being linked to your brain? Introducing a probiotic into your regimen can help promote a healthier gut and a happier you. Prebiotics and probiotics have been shown to help maintain stability in the gut. Research has also suggested that they can help the body’s response to stress and depression.[10,22,12,13] 

Our Probiotic Complex’s unique formula helps establish optimal health where it matters the most: in your gut. It contains 20 billion CFUs per serving and 7 probiotic strains that are clinically proven to help promote optimal gut health, helping your body maintain a healthy balance. We also included inulin—a prebiotic—which helps promote better digestion and overall health by increasing the effectiveness of probiotics by fueling the good bacteria.

Before introducing any supplements into your diet, we recommend discussing them with your doctor first.

Incorporate Whole Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables

Whole Grains

Whole grains are foods like wheat, rice, and oats that are left intact during processing and contain more fibre and nutrients than refined grains. Research shows that a higher dietary fibre intake is associated with lower risks of depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress.[14

But the benefits of whole grains don’t stop there. Keeping with the theme of gut health, whole grains benefit your gut-brain axis since they have anti-inflammatory effects when digested in the gut.[15]

Fruits and Vegetables

Like we discussed before, there are many nutrients that support mental health, including fibre, complex carbohydrates, polyphenols, vitamin B, and vitamin C. And fruits and vegetables are super rich in these nutrients.[15,16]

Eating more fruits and vegetables, according to recent research, was linked with higher levels of optimism and lower levels of psychological distress and depression. Fruits and vegetables worth incorporating into your diet include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and berries.[16,17]

Foods to Limit or Avoid to Improve Mental Health

As we have shown, there are plenty of foods and nutrients that support mental health. There are some, on the other hand, that can cripple it.

Alcohol

For some people, alcohol consumption often becomes part of an unfortunate loop. Meaning—Those dealing with symptoms of mental health issues may use alcohol to numb their feelings or try to find relief, only to find out it’s temporary. And too much alcohol can greatly worsen symptoms of mood disorders, stress, anxiety, and depression.[21,22,23,24] Therefore, it is recommended that those dealing with symptoms of mental health issues only drink in moderation or even abstain from alcohol completely.

Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods—foods that have gone through industrial processing techniques—are oftentimes higher in salt, calories, added sugars, and more. Eating these foods regularly has been shown to correlate with a higher chance of symptoms that go along with anxiety, stress, and depression.[18,19,20]

Nutritional Changes to Support Mental Health

Eat at Regular Times

Eating at regular mealtimes can possibly help balance your mood. Especially since seeing as when we eat tends to influence our choices, as well as plays a role in inflammation, circadian rhythm, and gut microbiome. These things, as already mentioned, affect mental health and are linked to productivity loss, sleep issues, higher levels of neuroticism, and more.[15,25,26]

Get Better Sleep

Why are we discussing sleep in a blog all about nutritional decisions? Well—Quality sleep is a key factor in mental health, and it may also play a role in gut health and food choices.[27-33]

One of the main culprits is caffeine intake, whether it is coffee or energy drinks. Both of these drinks are linked to not only poor sleep, but also to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.[34,35] Therefore, it is recommended to limit caffeine and drink it only in the morning.

Eat Mindfully, Pace Yourself, and Monitor Progress

What do we mean by this?

  • Pay close attention to the foods you eat and how those foods make you feel.
  • Limit or avoid the foods that may be influencing how you feel.
  • Start small. There’s no need to completely change your entire diet.
  • Change out foods that hinder your mental health for foods that support it.
  • Monitor your progress by journaling or checklists

Be Gentle with Yourself

Last, but not least, remember to take it easy on yourself. Change is a process that takes time. Give yourself grace if you happen to stumble along the way. Tomorrow is a new day.

Congratulations on taking the first step to transform your health, both mentally and nutritionally. If you’re looking for additional ways to transform your health, check out HeyNutrition’s line of holistic products by clicking here, or browse our blogs for more ways to better yourself and your health.


A Note on Professional Support

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, diet changes alone may not be enough to properly treat these conditions in some cases. If you’re in need, feel empowered to seek the help you may need. 

Find a helpline or additional resources in your area:


Resources:

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Samantha

Written by Samantha