It’s no secret that healthy eating can improve your general well-being. Good nutrition can help set you on the path to a healthy weight and reduce your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Research has also shown that nutrient deficiencies are implicated in many mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, and that foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and B vitamins may have positive effects on both physical and mental health.

For these reasons and more, incorporating healthy foods into your lifestyle can be beneficial for your body AND your mind. As behavioral health professionals, we often put the care and concern on encouraging healthy habits for our clients — but knowing the relationship between food and mood can help us to feel our best in order to provide our clients with the best support.

Healthy eating boosts mental health and self confidence. Food and mood are clearly related — when you eat well, your mental health benefits. A 2019 study on people being treated for depression showed that nearly one-third of those who practiced a healthy diet over three months no longer showed signs of depression.

Here are a few essentials we all need:

  • Essential fatty acids produce energy and process body fats, and positively impact mood. Find these in foods with high lignan content including beans, flaxseed, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and raw vegetables.
  • Vitamin D is especially important to healthy brain function and affects dopamine and serotonin concentrations in the body, which regulate pleasure centers and mood. This is produced in the body when exposed to direct sunlight, and can also be found in milk, cheese, egg yolks, tuna, salmon, mackerel and beef liver.
  • Folate, B-12, and other B vitamins are required for the production of mood regulators serotonin and dopamine, and hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine, among other body functions. Pastured eggs, nuts, and beans are high in B-12, while broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, peas, chickpeas and kidney beans are high in folate.
Taking care of your own well-being is just as important as supporting others, since we all know you can’t pour from an empty cup!

The relationship between food and mood