“You are what you eat”

“Food is medicine”

These common axioms emphasize the power of our food choices. What we eat directly impacts our mental health. Nutritional Psychology is the science of how diet impacts our emotions and behaviors. This field examines the relationship between food and our psychological experience. A growing number of research literature suggests that nutrition effects our psychology.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in sugar, simple carbohydrates and processed foods. In fact, 74% of calories consumed by Americans come from processed and high sugar foods. In contrast, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, high quality protein and complex carbohydrates is likely the best choice to optimize our mental health. Symptoms of depression, anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be exacerbated by certain dietary choices. Overall, the SAD diet increases risk for certain mental health disorders.

Poor Diet and the Development of ADHD

Researchers from the University of Barcelona found that lower adherence to a Mediterranean diet was connected with a ADHD diagnosis. Children eating a lot of sugary foods, fast food, fewer vegetables and low consumption of fatty fish were more likely to have ADHD symptoms. Researchers of the study point out that their findings don’t prove causality; however, they suggest that diet may influence ADHD’s course of development.

Nutritional Therapy for Depression

Although diet alone may not be able to eliminate depression, studies have found that taking certain supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids, can help to alleviate certain symptoms. Furthermore, eating a well-balanced diet with appropriate supplements may reduce the need to take antidepressant medications, which have been known to have unwanted side effects. Psychotherapy, sufficient sleep and regular exercise are also important to treat depression.