The emerging field of nutritional psychiatry suggests a relationship between diet quality and mental health and considers the use of dietary and nutraceutical interventions to address mental disorders and to potentially improve patient outcomes.
For example, conclusions based largely on cross-sectional and longitudinal studies suggest that routine consumption of a Western-type highly processed diet increased the risk of developing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.8 In contrast, those observational studies suggested that the risk was lower if an anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style diet was followed.
A balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains may help bolster mental wellness for management of daily life stresses, anxiety, and grief.
In fact, one of the studies included only participants with both major depressive disorder and a diet history that was rated as “poor quality” and found that 32% of participants in the dietary intervention group, which improved their diet quality, achieved a remission of depressive episodes within the three-month intervention period.
A nutrient-dense diet made up of foods full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients can be a powerful tool in promoting mental wellness and combating chronic disease. A diet that incorporates a varied and colorful rainbow of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, spices, and herbs provides essential minerals and vitamins, including antioxidants. In addition, the bountiful phytochemicals that contribute to the color, taste, and smell of plants provide both physical and mental health benefits.
Nutrition is a cornerstone of functional medicine care. Diet quality is a crucial consideration when evaluating chronic physical and mental health conditions and when implementing personalized interventions that address imbalances in order to optimize a patient’s overall wellness. Dietary patterns that include adequate and varied consumption of foods that are rich in essential micronutrients, including antioxidants and phytonutrients, positively impact mental health.
Carotenoid intake (Found in orange fruits and vegetables, more bioavailable in fruits.)
reduced psychological stress and improved emotional and physical health compared to placebo.18 Other antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, D,19 and E may also play a role in the development and alleviation of anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Research also suggests that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are protective against depression and reduce depressive symptoms.