Can what you eat and drink effect your mental health?

Happy Wellness Month! Welcome to the second of five communications to encourage and promote wellness with an emphasis on how care for our mind, body, and spirit promotes mental health wellness. Thank for the positive feedback on the first communication. My hope is that this is helpful to you all too.

🙂 Candace


Q: Can what you eat and drink affect your mental health

A: "This may sound implausible to you, but the notion that good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs, but that they also affect the degree of inflammation throughout your body, as well as your mood and energy level, is gaining traction among researchers." - Harvard Health



Did you know excess caffeine can trigger panic attacks for people who experience anxiety?

  Animated GIFTry to: Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (about 2 liters) to prevent dehydration. Studies show that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes. Limit caffeine if you have an anxiety disorder. If you feel like you need some caffeine, try tea. Tea has lower amounts of caffeine than coffee and has lots of antioxidants-chemicals found in plants that protect body tissues and prevent cell damage.


Did you know that eating a regular intake of high-fat dairy, and fried, refined and sugary foods can significantly increase your risk of depression?

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Try to: Eat a diet that relies on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats (like olive oil). People who follow this kind of diet are up to 30% less likely to develop depression than people who eat lots of meat and dairy products. 

Tips For The Grocery Store 

  • Try to concentrate your shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh, refrigerated and frozen foods are, rather than in the center aisles where foods like chips, cookies and candy can be tempting. 
  • If fresh veggies tend to expire before you get a chance to eat them, buy frozen ones instead. Stores carry an assortment of steam-in-bag vegetables that keep well in the freezer and cook in the microwave in a matter of minutes. 
  • Choose whole grain pastas, breads, cereals, granola bars and snacks instead of those made with white flour. Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which promotes digestive health, and also provide folate (or folic acid). 


Mind Wellness Support from Nutrients

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Folate (Folic Acid, Vitamin B9) 

Increased intake of folate is associated with a lower risk of depression.4 

Vitamin D 

Rates of depression are higher in people with Vitamin D deficiency compared to people who have adequate levels of vitamin DLack of Vitamin D is thought to play a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is depression that commonly starts in the fall, lasts through winter and subsides in the sunnier spring and summer months. 

Most foods do not naturally have Vitamin D, but many are “Vitamin D fortified.” Fatty fish like salmon and tuna have the most naturally occurring Vitamin D. Other foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals have Vitamin D added. 

Our bodies also produce Vitamin D as a result of being in the sun. Five to thirty minutes of sun exposure twice a week generally produces enough Vitamin D, with lighter-skinned people requiring less time than those with darker skin. Time in the sun beyond the suggested amounts above requires use of sunscreen to prevent skin damage and reduce risk of skin cancer. Vitamin D supplements may be used in fall and winter months. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Some studies suggest that omega-3s may be helpful in the treatment of depression and seem to have a mood-stabilizing effect. Omega-3 essential fatty acids may also help boost the effectiveness of conventional antidepressants and help young people with ADHD. 

Oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines) are the most highly recommended sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and the American Heart Association suggests eating these types of fish at least twice a week. Omega-3s can also be found in walnuts, flax (or flaxseed oil), olive oil, fresh basil and dark green leafy vegetables. 

**Modified from full article at Mental Health America 

Additional resource:
Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food - Harvard Health/Harvard Medical School
(See attached questionnaire to help guide and support your wellness journey with healthy eating habits)
Wishing you a great day, Buen Provecho, and Bon Appetit!

Candace Runaas, MS, LMFT-S

Director of Behavioral Health

Northwest Assistance Ministries

Main Office: (281) 885-4555

[email protected]