Can your diet affect your mental well-being?

Is good nutrition is essential for our mental health?

“Several studies are investigating the correlation between nutrition and mental health,” says Joan Katz, RD, Chief Dietitian at Christian Health Care Center (CHCC). “How we feel can be a result of what we eat, and vice versa.”

Food and chemicals in the brain interact throughout the day to keep us going.

“If you eat a variety of healthy foods, including lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products, you are bound to obtain the nutrients which support a healthy body and mind,” Mrs. Katz says.

Some specific foods which can support good mental health include turkey, walnuts, salmon and sardines, skim milk, green tea, and even dark chocolate.

“Turkey has a high level of tryptophan which stimulates serotonin production. Low levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect, are often found in people who suffer from depression. Walnuts, salmon, and sardines have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which support overall brain health,” Mrs. Katz says. “Skim milk and other low-fat dairy products are rich sources of calcium, vitamin D, and proteins that induce a sense of well-being and relaxation. Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that may reduce stress. And dark chocolate helps release serotonin, but just remember that it’s calorie-dense, so only a little at a time!”

When you eat can also affect how you feel. Low-energy levels during the day can be a result of poor meal timing.

“If you skip a meal, blood-sugar levels can fluctuate and cause mood swings,” says Linda Heiser, RD, CHCC’s dietitian who assists Ramapo Ridge Psychiatric Hospital patients and Ramapo Ridge Partial-hospitalization Program consumers. “Skipping meals can also result in poor concentration. Stress can cause you to either overeat or skip meals. The optimal plan is to space meals and snacks three to four hours apart.”

Interested in learning more about nutrition and mental health? Through the Christian Health Care Center Speakers Bureau, Joan Katz, RD, LNHA, is available to make presentations to your group. For more information, call (201) 848-4463 or email


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