Early on we’re taught that eating well helps us look and feel our best. But we’re not always told that good nutrition significantly affects our mental health.

A healthy, well-balanced diet can help you think clearly and feel more alert. It can also improve your concentration and attention span. In fact, research shows that there is a direct link between what we eat and how we feel. For instance, some foods, such as vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs, garlic olive oil, cereal and grains, can actually reduce the symptoms of depression. 

On the other hand, an inadequate diet can lead to fatigue, impaired decision-making, and can slow down reaction time. A poor diet can actually aggravate, and may even lead to, stress and depression. Foods such as caffeine, chocolate, and those high in saturated fat like butter and palm oil, have been shown to have a negative affect on your mood. Meeting with a Florida Nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan for your specific needs is a great idea if you feel like your diet is affecting your mental health. 

Physical health is important but it is also crucial to pay more attention to mood and conditions like anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression rates have been rising due to the pandemic so it’s important to make sure you stay in tune with your mental health. Research shows several nutrients that may help fight depression.

  • Magnesium: Plays a big role in mood stability. Since stress increases magnesium loss, stress reduction and self-care are vital here. Magnesium may also boost the effects of an antidepressant. Sources of magnesium include roasted pumpkin seeds, soymilk, black beans, chia, dry roasted almonds, banana, edamame.  
  • Vitamin D: Researchers identified vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with depression. Deficiency has been shown to be associated with increased depression. Limited sun exposure can contribute to low levels, so pay special attention during winter months. Have your vitamin D status checked at your primary care office and a vitamin D supplement may be helpful to prevent low vitamin D levels. Sources of vitamin D include sunshine, egg yolk, fish liver oil, and fatty fish such as trout, tuna, salmon, mackerel. 
  • Probiotics: More studies are needed but current research suggests microbes in our gut are involved in producing chemicals that influence the brain. Sources of probiotic include yogurt (includes non-dairy yogurt), kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh. 

Paying attention to how you feel when you eat, and what you eat, is one of the first steps in making sure you’re getting the right nutrients to stay healthy. Managing your diet isn’t always easy to do on your own. Dietitians at Behavioral Nutrition can help by identifying habits that lead to problematic eating behaviors and developing a healthy eating plan that includes foods you enjoy. Turning to Florida Nutritional Therapy Services for help isn’t a sign of weakness, especially in situations too difficult to handle alone.