When you follow a diet of nutrient-rich foods, you set yourself up for fewer mood swings and a better ability to concentrate. Studies have even found that clean diets, which consist mainly of whole and unprocessed foods, can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. The role of regular diet in the development of depressive disorders and symptoms has become a focus of recent research over the past decade. Data from the adult population has indicated that a better quality diet is associated with better mental health outcomes.
1—5 In fact, new meta-analyses have confirmed the inverse association between healthy diets and depression, 4.5 A generally poor diet (e.g., on the contrary, an inadequate diet can cause fatigue, decision-making problems and slow down reaction time). In fact, a poor diet can exacerbate, and even cause, stress and depression. There is some evidence that certain dietary patterns may help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and general mood. A recent study involving more than 3000 adults found that a higher intake of dietary fiber was related to a lower risk of anxiety, depression and psychological distress (2).
Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging area of research that focuses specifically on the role of nutrition in the development and treatment of mental health problems). The SMILES trial was one of the first randomized controlled trials to examine the role of diet in treating depression. Research on whether dietary interventions can help treat mental health problems is relatively new and still quite limited. The most common reasons for exclusion were (“diet” defined as skipping meals, controlling calories, or overeating); (the results were taken from participants enrolled in an intervention study, a community or school program, or both); (the study explored the role of stress or well-being as opposed to psychological outcomes) or (the study investigated the impact of parents' practices or attitudes related to food supply).
To improve your mental health, focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables along with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Not only is lack of sleep itself associated with worse mental health, but it can also influence gut health and food choices (67, 68, 69, 70). In fact, you begin to change the physiology of the brain when you extract added sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Several observational studies have demonstrated a relationship between the overall quality of the diet and the risk of depression.
People with healthy diets may be more likely to adopt behaviors that are also related to a lower risk of mental health conditions, such as regular physical activity, practicing good sleep habits, and abstaining from smoking. We see a consistent trend in terms of the relationship between a good quality diet and better mental health, and some evidence to the contrary. In recent years, several studies have observed links between dietary patterns, gut health and the risk of depression (11, 12, 13, 1).