February 12, 2021

Nutrition and Mood: Healthy Foods to Enhance Mental Health

Nutrition is a key component to ensuring mental and physical health. For young people in particular, eating regularly and maximizing nutritious foods is critical when the body is still developing. Numerous scientific studies have shown a strong connection between diet and mental health. It’s essential to take advantage of what is in your control to better your own mental wellbeing.

A meta-analysis that reviewed 12 epidemiological studies determining an association between diet quality and patterns among mental health in children and adolescents found, “a significant, cross-sectional relationship between unhealthy dietary patterns and poorer mental health.” Additionally, meta-analyses have also confirmed the inverse association of habitually poor diets and increased risk of depression and anxiety.

It’s important to prioritize your diet and be thoughtful about food choices. Eating nutritious meals regularly can assist in taking control of your own wellbeing. Be thoughtful about your choices and ensure that you consuming enough to support your mental and physical activity.

Vitamins and Minerals to Support Mental Health

Specific vitamins play crucial roles in supporting the bodies development and wellbeing. Vitamins can be found in food, our environment, and as supplements if an individual if failing to receive these vitamins otherwise.

Healthy amounts of vitamin D, folic acid, vitamin B, and magnesium have been proven to increase physical and mental wellbeing. It’s important to speak with your doctor if you are concerned about vitamin or mineral deficiency, or if you are considering supplements as some can interact with medications.

Vitamin D

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, Vitamin D deficiency is common in adolescents worldwide. The primary source of vitamin D is from natural exposure to sunlight.Even 10-15 minutes of exposure to sunlight can have a significant effect on your overall mood. Vitamin D can support the body’s ability to maximize absorption of calcium, helping develop strong bone density. Low levels of vitamin D has been associated with low moods and depression.

While sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, overexposure can lead to sun damage or skin cancer. Egg yolks, oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring), and mushrooms are a few good examples of foods that contain vitamin D.Vitamin D foods can sometimes be a challenge for young people with particular tastes—if this is the case, speak with your doctor about an appropriate vitaminD supplement.

Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, assists in the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. Individuals lacking appropriate amounts of folic acid can exhibit folate deficiency anemia, leading to extreme tiredness. This lack of energy can cause or worsen symptoms of depression.

Folic acid can be found naturally in many foods. Legumes(beans, peas, lentils), asparagus, eggs, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, arugula, brussels sprouts, broccoli), beets, and fruits (citrus fruits, bananas, avocados), and nuts are great examples of foods that contain folic acid. Try incorporating these foods into a daily routine to increase folic acid intake.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is proven to have a direct impact on energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism. Low levels of vitamin B may be a result of poor diet or the body’s inability to absorb the nutrients you’re consuming.If a vitamin B deficiency is suspected, it’s important to contact your doctor who may order a blood test to better understand if and why a deficiency is present.While more research on this topic is needed, several studies have indicated a relationship among vitamin B deficiency and depression.

Vitamin B can be found naturally in many foods such as:whole grains (brown rice, barley), Meat (red meat, poultry, fish), dairy products (eggs, milk, cheese), legumes (bean, lentils), nuts (almonds), leafy vegetables(broccoli, spinach), fruits (citrus fruits, avocados, bananas). Many foods that contain vitamin B are also rich in folic acid.


Magnesium is one of the body’s most abundant minerals. Magnesium is an essential nutrient that the body needs for multiple processes, including regulating muscle, nerve function, protein production and others. Several studies have examined the relationship of magnesium levels and mental health disorders. While the evidence on mental health disorders is inconclusive, scientist have concluded that deficiency in magnesium can lead to symptoms of fatigue, muscle weakness, numbness, nausea and others. It’s important to speak with your doctor if you are concerned about a magnesium deficiency or are considering adding supplements to your diet.

Magnesium can be found in many foods including fish (Chinook salmon, halibut, Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic pollock),vegetables (spinach, swiss chard, edamame, okra), whole grains (bran cereals, wheatgerm, quinoa) legumes (black-eyed peas, beans, chickpeas), tap water (depending on the source).

Contact Us

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health or substance use, Charlie Health is here to support. Our admission team is available 24/7 to guide you through this challenging time and match you with an appropriate treatment program to begin the healing process from the comfort of home.


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Claire Ellison, LCSW

Laura Sebulsky, MBSR

Director of Admissions and
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