Tuesday, April 16, 2024


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Is mental health also passing through our plate? Yes, argues nutritional psychiatry, a discipline that developed to investigate food as an additional “tool” against mental illness.

When we have an anxiety disorder or other mental health issue, we first seek help from a professional. Then we help ourselves help ourselves through our lifestyle and, of course, our dietThere are foods that are recommended for various health issues, physical and mental. However, the lack of specific, common rules made the gap that existed in science felt. This is how nutritional psychiatry was created .

The job of nutritional psychiatry is to make food a “tool” in the battle against mental illness. To study and come up with what helps each disease or disorder.

The recognition of the healing power of food

Until 2017, the potential therapeutic effect of our dietary choices on mental illness was largely unknown. Thus, researchers thought it would be interesting to study the effectiveness of a nutritional improvement program in the management of major depressive episodes. It was found that preferring foods but fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil and fish benefits our mental health more than social support .

Today, there is a large body of evidence suggesting that food can act as “medicine” for our souls . Studies have shown that certain nutrients and dietary patterns (eg, the Mediterranean diet ) can improve mood and reduce stress.


What to eat to reduce stress, according to nutritional psychiatry


Additionally, it has been shown that foods can help treat conditions such as depression , anxiety and ADHD.

The relationship between what we eat and what we feel was also recognized by the World Health Organization . To facilitate the work of scientists and consequently the life of everyone, the new scientific field of nutritional psychiatry was created.

What is nutritional psychiatry?

This emerging field explores the relationship between nutrition and mental health . That is, how foods and eating patterns can affect brain function, mental well-being, and the development of mental health conditions. Nutritional psychiatry is built on the connection between the gut and the brain , which was first made by Hippocrates.

Dr. Uma Naidoo , a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, professional chef and certified nutritionist, explained to Time magazine that “there is a direct line of communication between them, through the vagus nerve , which runs from the brainstem to the large intestine .


nutritional psychiatry


Neurotransmitters that regulate mood (eg serotonin) are produced in the gut. “Once the gut is pumping, the vagus nerve acts like a two-way messaging system , which allows neurotransmitters to go back and forth, as well as up and down, all the time.”

This isn’t the only way our gut affects our brain.

The gut microbiome “regulates” psychology

Experts in nutritional psychiatry explain that the gut microbiome is directly related to our mental state. The 2017 study reported that trillions of microbes live in our digestive system and work to break down the components of every food we eat. In this process, they “affect” various other parts of the body. Just as they nourish our physical body, nutritious foods also take care of the gut microbiome . This has many benefits.

One is better mental health. A healthy gut microbiome can influence neurotransmitter production, mood regulation and inflammation , which can affect mental well-being.

Let’s go now, let’s see what we can eat to help – in various ways – our brain and psychology.

What to eat to improve brain function

For researchers to talk about data, it takes years of research in which all aspects are examined and reexamined. At this stage, we have evidence that zinc found in foods such as oysters and nuts boosts protein levels that promote new growth in the brain. This can potentially lead to better cognitive function and better mental health.


Oyster  iStock

Also, fruits like oranges, apples and grapes contain vitamin C and other antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage and reduce inflammation. They have been found to support overall cognitive function and mental well-being.

The surprise food that contains antioxidants is dark chocolate , with a high (at least 70%) cocoa content. In fact, it contains flavanols, which improve blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep and mood regulation.

What to eat for brain health

Chronic inflammation is linked to many mental health disorders. So, foods rich in antioxidants (eg, berries, green leafy vegetables, nuts) can help reduce inflammation and protect brain health.

Spinach, kale and broccoli are rich in folate, vitamin K and magnesium, ingredients that play a role in neurotransmitter production, mood regulation and cognitive function.

Berries are full of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins , which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. This can help protect against anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.


What to eat to reduce anxiety and depression, according to nutritional psychiatry


Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, almonds and flaxseeds , are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and magnesium. They are nutrients that support brain function, reduce inflammation and contribute to overall mental well-being.

Anti-inflammatory compounds also contain spices , such as cinnamon, saffron, turmeric and black pepper. These compounds improve metabolism and can therefore boost mental health.

What to eat to reduce stress

Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats , provide complex carbohydrates that release energy slowly and help stabilize blood sugar levels. This has been shown to reduce stress and improve overall mood.

He also noted that vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and arugula contain compounds that reduce inflammation, which as you’ve already read is linked to many health problems, including depression and anxiety.




In a 2022 study, people who ate large servings of cruciferous vegetables each day reported significantly lower levels of stress than people who ate less.

What to eat to improve disorders such as depression

In preliminary research it appears that foods that can improve mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, e.g. salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), nuts and vegetable oils , when taken more than once a week.

Omega-3s help reduce inflammation, support neurotransmitter production and protect against cognitive decline.

Fermented foods rich in probiotics (yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut) support gut health and therefore reduce stress. They can also enhance cognitive function. It is enough to eat two to three portions a day.

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