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How Nutrition Affects Mental Health

“You are what you eat,” goes the old adage. Cutting-edge research on nutritional psychiatry proves through scientific evidence that the food we put into our bodies not only provides the “fuel” for our body but also our mind. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, food has the power to heal or hurt. With March being National Nutrition Month, The Kim Foundation wanted to look at nutrition’s role in mental health.   

Simply put, what we choose to consume can either support better mental and physical health, or it can be the number one contributor to many diseases and poor mental health such as depression and anxiety. We all understand that there is a link between the food we consume and our physical health. For example, a diet high in sugar can cause cardiovascular diseases, cancers, or type 2 diabetes. Science has also discovered that this typical western diet high in processed foods and refined sugars can cause other conditions such as low-grade inflammation. Harvard Health points out that the medical community has learned that consistent low-grade inflammation can cause oxidative stress and promote inflammation throughout the body and can lead to impaired brain function and cause symptoms of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.  

There is a connection between mood and food! I call my morning coffee “my cup of happy,” and chocolate seems to put a smile on my face, but nutrition is much more complex than this; new evidence found at Harvard University shows how gut health regulated brain health. I repeat that GUT HEALTH PLAYS A ROLE IN BRAIN HEALTH. According to this study, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, mediates moods, and inhibits pain. 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal tract. We need to take care of our gut, and to do this, it is recommended we need to eat “clean,” that is, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, fish/seafood, unprocessed grains, and modest amounts of lean meats and dairy and avoiding processed and refined food and sugars. Gulp, that is a tall order. Nutritional psychiatry is gaining traction. It is encouraged to do a quick internet search on this topic to become better educated, talk to your medical doctor, or seek advice from a nutritionist. Here is eating for better brain health. Bon appetite! 


Colleen Eusterwiemann, Suicide Pre & Postvention Coordinator for The Kim Foundation

Colleen earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Northwest Missouri State University and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Colleen has previous experience working for local non-profits focusing on consulting, coordinating, planning, and providing direct care. Colleen joined The Kim Foundation in January of 2022.