You’ve probably noticed how food can affect your mood and thoughts. Turkey makes you sleepy. Caffeine creates the jitters. Lots of sugar makes you feel sluggish. Now researchers are saying our diets probably influence our mental status to a much greater degree that these obvious examples.

Studies suggest that improving one’s diet can make a significant difference in a person’s mental wellbeing, even to the point of helping to manage mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. The research shows that certain nutrients have a clear link to optimal brain health, including omega-3s, B vitamins (particularly folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D and amino acids.

A diet that supports good mental health emphasizes these foods:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk products
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts

And limits:

  • Sugar consumption to around 10 percent of total caloric intake
  • Alcohol intake

Nutrition “is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology,” says Jerome Sarris, MD, from the University of Melbourne and a member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, writing recently in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

The diet of a pregnant woman and an infant’s diet can also impact mental health, he says. Moreover, since many mental disorders first occur in the adolescent years, it may be even more important for teens to eat the healthiest diet possible.


Sarris, J., Logan, A.C., Akbaraly, T.N., Amminger, G.P., Balanzá-Martinez, V., Freeman, M.P. . . . Jacka, F.N. (2015, Jan. 25). Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2, 271-274.

Retrieved from:

World Health Organization. (2015, Sept.) Healthy diet. Fact Sheet, 394. Retreived from:

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