The Impacts of Nutrition on Mental Health

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By: Sarah Pittman, Dietetic Intern

The winter months with cold, wet, dark and windy weather can lead to seasonal depression and an overall feeling of melancholy. Research has shown that living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise can boost your mood not only in the winter months but all year round. The study conducted by Dr. Joseph Firth at the University of Manchester found that all types of dietary improvement had equal benefits to the participant’s mental health. They found an even bigger impact on low moods when healthy eating was combined with exercise. And although this study found an improvement in overall mood, they did not find a correlation in nutrition and anxiety1.

“”Instead, just making simple changes is equally beneficial for mental health. In particular, eating more nutrient-dense meals which are high in fibre and vegetables, while cutting back on fast-foods and refined sugars appears to be sufficient for avoiding the potentially negative psychological effects of a ‘junk food’ diet.”1 -Dr. Firth

On the other hand, another study showed that poor mental health is linked with a poor diet regardless of gender, age, education and marital status. They say with this and other current research showing a positive correlation between a healthy diet and mental health, this could change the way healthcare providers treat certain psychological conditions.2

What are some simple ways to fight the winter blues?

Do the basics:

  1. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
  2. Make an effort to get in whole grains daily
  3. Exercise for 30 minutes every day
  4. Get enough sleep every night
  5. Try to get outside for some vitamin D (weather permitting)

Do you ever get the winter blues? What do you do to fight your seasonal depression?

References:

  1. 1. Healthy diet can ease symptoms of depression. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190205090511.htm. Published 2019. Accessed February 24, 2019.
  1. 2. Junk food is linked to both moderate and severe psychological distress. ScienceDaily. https:www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190221111701.htm. Published 2019. Accessed February 24, 2019.

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