Nutrition for Mental Health

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Anyone who has been following Acacia for awhile knows that many of our practitioners gravitate toward the Mediterranean diet when it comes to nutrition recommendations.

It has been shown to be a beneficial diet style for prevention and management of a variety of conditions and disease states, and here is one more to add to the list! Did you know that the Mediterranean diet has been shown to be one of the best eating styles for mood and mental health?

While the body of research in this area is still growing, there is good evidence to suggest an improvement in mental health scores, as well as a reduced likelihood of depression diagnoses in individuals adhering to a Mediterranean diet versus a typical Western diet.

It should be noted that the Mediterranean diet has also faced some pushback lately under the argument that promoting the Mediterranean diet may lead to food shaming and stigmatization toward individuals following other traditional/cultural diet patterns but that is certainly not the goal! For example, some studies have also shown a traditional Japanese diet is also associated with better mental health outcomes when compared to a Western diet.

Furthermore, for some, the effort to fully follow a Mediterranean diet may seem too overwhelming. But that’s ok! For anyone who has had an appointment with me before, you will know that diet is truly not an “all or nothing” approach. Small changes go a long way.

The main components that seem to be the most beneficial in these diet patterns include a higher volume of vegetables/fruits (more antioxidants, fibre), whole grains (fibre again), legumes (yay, fibre!), nuts (healthy fats and fibre), fish/seafood and other lean protein sources, and monounsaturated fats. In addition, it is lower in ultra processed grains, refined sugars, red meat, and saturated fat.

Why not try making a few changes to your diet without doing a complete overhaul?

For example:

  • Try to include a fruit or vegetable with every meal
  • Swap your red meat for fish or tofu 1-2 times/week
  • Switch your takeout choice from pizza to poke bowls
  • Choose a handful of almonds instead of chips
  • Sautee your veggies in olive oil instead of butter

Any of these changes will get you closer to the nutritional makeup of the Mediterranean diet, and can go a long way to improving your overall health and wellbeing; and both physical and mental! Of course there are also other mental health and nutrition components such as consistency to help stabilize blood sugars and hormone levels, and variety to help improve microbiome, but we will save those for another time ?

If you are struggling to find balance in your diet, or you find that your mental health is becoming a barrier to planning and preparing healthy meals and snacks, Tiffany might be able to help! Book a free 15-min meet and greet today (link)

Resources and further reading:

Li, Y., Lv, M. R., Wei, Y. J., Sun, L., Zhang, J. X., Zhang, H. G., & Li, B. (2017). Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry research253, 373–382.

Parletta, N., Zarnowiecki, D., Cho, J., Wilson, A., Bogomolova, S., Villani, A., Itsiopoulos, C., Niyonsenga, T., Blunden, S., Meyer, B., Segal, L., Baune, B. T., & O’Dea, K. (2019). A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutritional neuroscience22(7), 474–487.

Ventriglio, A., Sancassiani, F., Contu, M. P., Latorre, M., Di Slavatore, M., Fornaro, M., & Bhugra, D. (2020). Mediterranean Diet and its Benefits on Health and Mental Health: A Literature Review. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health : CP & EMH16(Suppl-1), 156–164.

Firth J, Gangwisch J E, Borsini A, Wootton R E, Mayer E A. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ 2020; 369 :m2382 doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382