Nutrition and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?

Kiera on August 08, 2013

Have you ever noticed that what you eat affects how you feel? Have you ever felt tired, anxious, or energized after eating certain foods? I started to notice that I felt tired after lunch or nervous and jumpy after a cup of coffee. Noticing these effects, I began to wonder what impact what we eat has on our mood and mental health.

Changing Diets, Changing Minds: How food affects mental well being and behaviour is a report which aims to describe the research around the connection between diet and mental health (Van de Weyer, 2005). Scientific knowledge about the impact of nutrition on the brain is relatively new and continues to grow. What we know so far is that the brain is just like any other organ in our bodies; it needs proper nutrients for both structure and function. What we eat impacts the physical structure and function of the brain, and in turn, how our brain operates and communicates.

The relationship between nutrition and mental health is not well understood; however, there is evidence that suggests what we eat can have an impact not only on our daily mood but also on mental health challenges.

For example, research suggests that there is a connection between diet and depression. A low intake of fish, omega 3 fatty acids and fruits and vegetables are risk factors for depression. On the other hand, high amounts of refined sugar and processed foods may also increase the risk of depression. Diet-based treatment for those experiencing depression may be helpful; however, more research in this area is needed. Nutrition can also have an impact on other mental health challenges including ADHD, and schizophrenia.

Nutrition information can be overwhelming to understand and interpret! It seems that every day there is a new study (or two) about the benefits (or harms) of a different food. Luckily, eating for mental health and well-being is generally the same as eating for physical health. The BC Ministry of Health and Dietitians of Canada have some great resources on healthy eating for families.

For me, I also like to take note of how I feel when I eat certain foods. Every body is different, and will need different foods to flourish. I want to live my life with as much energy as possible, and I know that fueling my body, and my brain, will bring me one step closer to reaching this goal.

What are your nutrition goals?


Its a nice discussion. I had fun reading your post. Great j ob.

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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.