How diet influences mental health

How diet influences mental health

No one doubts that the quality of the diet has a direct impact on physical health. What is not just assumed is that food also influences the mental state, and it could not be otherwise, since the brain is as much a part of the body as the stomach or the intestines. New studies shed light on the relationships between diet and mental state.

How diet influences mental health


Studies on the effects of diet on mental health have faced the problem of finding out whether first eats badly and then there are consequences at the brain and an animo level or the other way around. For example, in a study conducted with more than 1,000 women it was found that those who ate healthy foods suffered less depression or anxiety disorders.

It was observed that women with better mental health consumed more vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grain products. In contrast, the most processed and sugary products, made from white flour, fried foods and alcoholic beverages were abundant in the diet of women with more problems.

Although factors such as the educational level, income and age of the participants were taken into account, it could not be ruled out that the reason for not eating a good diet was not precisely the mental state and more specifically, stress.

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However, recent findings confirm that poor diet can be the trigger or the necessary condition for problems to develop and also that diet can be used therapeutically to treat them, since it can produce an improvement in three months.


Researchers from two New York universities (Binghamton and Stony Brook) have published a study in the journal Nutrients where they describe different correlations between dietary habits and mood and psychological state:

  • A high consumption of caffeine and fast food is associated with people with distress and other mental health problems.
  • Fruit consumption is associated with better mental health.
  • The moderate intake of nuts is especially beneficial in men.
  • Not skipping breakfast also reduces your risk.
  • Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables, including some raw servings, improves mental state.

Other research, published in the Journal of Nutritional Health and aging, notes that intermittent fasting with calorie restriction reduces tension, anger, confusion, and other disturbances.


The purely plant-based diet can have a very positive effect on the psyche, according to a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience. The study led by Dr. Julie DiMatteo shows that vegans have less stress and anxiety than omnivores. However, there are conflicting studies in this regard. In any case, a vegan diet can only be healthy if it meets nutritional needs and includes a supplement of vitamin B12, essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Nutrients that have traditionally been developed with better mental health are antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, selenium, and antioxidant compounds that are present in plants, such as flavonoids. All of these molecules protect neurons from free radical damage.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are part of the membranes of neurons, are also especially recommended. These fatty acids are found in oily fish and in the vegetarian diet in flax, chia and hemp seeds, as well as in walnuts.

On the other hand, foods with anti-inflammatory properties are also recommended, such as vegetables in general, fruits and some spices, such as turmeric or ginger.


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