Nutrition and Mental Health | Jane Reagan Nutrition Services

Nutrition and Mental Health

Nutrition and Mental Health

What we eat can impact how we feel, and how we feel can determine what we eat.   Everybody has experienced, in one way or another, the way that foods makes us feel.  This is often called “the food-mood connection”.  Food can make us feel energized, focused and happy or even tired, mentally spacey and apathetic.  We are all aware that mental illness is a serious condition and should be treated appropriately and may need medical and psychiatric interventions; however, consuming a nutrient-rich diet, targeting mood and brain health, is also an important strategy in the fight for improved mental health.

Recent research shows us that a nutrient dense diet isn’t just good for physical health; it’s good for the brain too.  Our food intake is potentially one of the most powerful intervention tools we have. Different foods have different effects on the chemicals in our brain.  Carbohydrates increase certain feel-good neurotransmitters in our brain, while in comparison focus and attention neurotransmitters are increased by protein rich foods.  Vitamins and minerals, or lack thereof, play key roles as co-factors in many processes that can impact mood (anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc.), sleep, energy and concentration.

When we eat can be just as important for mental health and mood than what we eat.  Gut health has also been shown to impact the brain.  A healthier gut “biome” can decrease inflammation, which can affect mood and cognition.  Looking at meal timing, food quality, appropriate food intake, specific nutrients, supplementation and overall dietary patterns is an essential part of any mental health treatment plan.

Nutrients matter in mental health.