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October 15, 2014
by Marti Wormuth, MA

How Can Diet Affect Mental Health?

October 15, 2014 04:55 by Marti Wormuth, MA  [About the Author]

Mental health is related to all areas of our health, and one of the things that frequently gets overlooked is how much your diet can affect your mental health. In this blog, I'm going to talk about how the things you eat can affect your mental health and how you can change your eating habits in order to make sure that you have optimum mental health when you're out accomplishing things and working hard. 


How Does Diet Affect Mental Health?

So, here's the big question: how does diet affect mental health? What exactly do the foods we eat do to our mind? There are a number of things that can affect the way that your mind works, especially if you aren't eating right. Here are some of the most significant ones that you may notice with your diet. 

Poor diet can make us more tired. 

As you likely know, if you aren't eating the right foods, you can be worn out and tired. Too many carbohydrates, especially sugars, can weigh us down and make use feel as if we are unable to move. That's why so many people get exhausted after they eat a huge meal - their body is expending so much energy trying to digest the food that they aren't really able to do what they want to do. It doesn't give you the energy that you need in order to get through the entire day, instead it just gives you little bursts that end up wearing you out even more after the initial effects wear off. So by eating the right things, you can make sure that you have the ability to get through your day in a healthy and effective manner, and your mind and body will not feel as fatigued. 

Poor diet can cause use to not work at maximum mental capacity. 

Our minds need a lot in order to be able to work effectively. By eating the right foods, you can make sure that your mind is clear and able to process information appropriately. If you are not eating the correct foods (for example, if you're eating a lot of fast food), your mind will start to struggle and it may even make it more difficult to deal with issues like anxiety and depression on a greater level. It's really interesting to see the correlation, because you wouldn't think that food would have an effect on anxiety problems, but it most definitely can and will if you aren't careful with what you are eating. 

A quality diet can help increase focus

ADD and ADHD are incredibly prevalent in our society today, and some of it has to deal with diet. There are a number of foods out there that can help increase your focus, including fish and other "brain foods." By ingesting these on a regular basis, you will actually start to see a difference in how well you can focus, how much you can process, and how well you can concentrate and learn about new things. It's really great to fully understand how food affects focus, because some of the treatments can really be a great supplement to any treatment that you may be getting from a medical professional. 

Poor physical health affects mental health in a negative way. 

If you aren't eating right, it's going to affect your physical health, and like I've talked about in other articles, your whole body is connected. Everything in your body is connected and if one part isn't working as it should be, then the rest of the body will kind of follow suit in the long run. This includes your mind. So if you're overweight, or if you just have poor physical health, you're going to be more likely to notice that your mental capacities aren't working as well either. If you aren't conscious of the fact that everything in your body is connected, you may fail to notice when your mental capacities and mental health are not keeping up as well as they used to be. By taking care of your body with good food and regular exercise, you will also start to see a difference when it comes to how well your mind works in a number of different situations. 

Eating Tips for Optimal Mental Health

If you are looking to have the best mental health that you can, you have to make sure that you are eating right, as you can see from what we were talking about in the previous section. If you want to make sure that you're eating for optimal mental health, then here are some tips that can help you to get on the right track - they definitely aren't the only tips that you need to follow, but they can definitely play a significant role in helping you to move forward in a healthy way. 

Cut down on processed foods. 

Processed foods have so much junk in them, and a lot of that junk is just filler. That filler isn't giving your body any nutritional value, and it certainly isn't helping your mind that much either. So by cutting down on the processed foods that you eat (yes, you have to cut down on going to fast food restaurants, I'm sorry), you will find that you feel a lot better both physically and mentally. You won't be ingesting as many of the chemicals that work to make your mind go slower than its meant to, and you will notice that you have a lot more clarity and focus on a regular basis. And who doesn't want to think more clearly when they're trying to concentrate and such? 

Make sure you're eating from all of the food groups. 

Balance is important for all of your life, even when it comes to food. By getting a little bit of everything into your diet, you are going to be more likely to see success in your mental capacities as well. Certain nutrients (healthy fats, proteins, good carbs) will help to enhance your brain power and can help your hormones to stay more stable throughout the day, thus helping your mental health and pushing you to live with a bit more focus and happiness. Some foods can even help to boost your mood if you're eating them on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet. 

Don't use food as a comfort tool. 

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is that they eat in order to "feel good." This, of course, may work for a few moments, but in the long term it can be really detrimental. Food is not a medication, and it should not be treated as one, no matter what you may be using it to "treat." This could become food addiction and could cause other mental health issues down the line that are hard to deal with in a healthy way. Instead of using food as a comfort tool, use it as something to sustain yourself - yes, you can enjoy it (and should, as we mention below), but don't let it be the "one thing" that makes you feel better if you're down and depressed. Those unhealthy habits could lead to other addictions that hurt your overall health in the long run. 

Eat with other people as often as you can. 

This sounds odd, but eating with other people is incredibly beneficial to your mental health. There is something to be said for people who can gather around the table and enjoy a meal together - it takes a little time and effort to get used to it, especially if it's not something that you are used to doing, but the more you eat with people, the better it is for your mind. Your emotions and your relationships are enhanced, your mental health is better, and you're more likely to control exactly how much you are eating and what you are eating if you are eating with other people on a regular basis. So sit down for a family meal, go out with friends, or be with others while you're eating your meals and you will definitely see a difference in your mood and mental capacities. 

Enjoy what you're eating, don't eat too quickly or you may miss out. 

Eating too quickly can really cause some issues, first off, physically, it makes it so that you don't necessarily feel "full" after you've finished eating. On top of that, it makes it so that you're not really enjoying the food that you're eating. Even though you're not supposed to use it for comfort, like we talked about above,you still should enjoy eating. Don't just make it another part of your day - by enjoying your food, you're allowing yourself to live in the moment and enjoy the life that you're living. Eating with people, like we talked about in the last tip, can help with this because you usually eat a lot more slowly if you're eating with others. 

Give yourself treats on occasion. 

Just like with any nutrition plan, you are allowed to have treats sometimes. Yes, it's okay to eat that cookie or snack or that small bag of chips, but don't do it every day. By eating "treats" that you enjoy, you will find that it's easier to keep on track with the other foods that you're eating and to stick to the diet that you want to maintain in order to have the best mental health that you can. Don't go crazy with your treats, but throw one in once a week or once every other week and see the difference it makes for your overall nutrition goals. 

Ask a nutritionist or mental health professional

So, as you can see, eating plays a huge role in your mental health. If you aren't exactly sure as to what you should and shouldn't be eating in order to help your mental health along, then you will want to talk to your mental health professional. They can give you tips and information on what you should be doing with your nutrition, and they can give you resources that will help you to achieve your mental health wellness goals. They may even be able to refer you to a nutritionist or someone else that will be able to guide you through an eating plan that will help with your healing in the best way. Contact your mental health professional today, or find one by using the website here. You will not regret the healthy changes that you make in order to live a more healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. 


Mental Health Foundation. (n.d.). Diet and Mental Health. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from

NAMI. (n.d.). Hearts and Minds: Healthy Eating. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from

Nauert, R. (2008, July 10). » Healthy Food Can Improve Mental Health - Psych Central News. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from

Telis, G. (2014, March 24). Can what you eat affect your mental health? New research links diet and the mind. Retrieved from

Winsey, L. M. (n.d.). Can We Control Mental Illness With Diet? Retrieved June 6, 2014, from


About the Author

Marti Wormuth, MA Marti Wormuth, MA

Marti has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s in Communication Studies. Her favorite activities include reading, playing games, and hanging out with the students at her church. Marti volunteers with the youth ministry at her church as a teacher and mentor. Because of this, she recently started another degree, her graduate certificate in student ministries. She considers her current graduate work to be a stepping stone to becoming a youth pastor or a published author.

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