Healthy Eating

Health Bite: Eating for Better Mental Health

Brian GermanFeatures, Health Bite

“You are what you eat” is an old expression, but it has withstood the test of time. Hi I’m Rachel Eslick with your AgNet West Health Bite.

Eating Food

Depression and anxiety can be treated with different types of medicine and therapy, including apparently nutritional psychiatry. A nutritional psychiatrist is someone who connects the dots between what you eat and how you feel. They can help patients feel better with traditional talk therapy and prescribing eating more nutritious food. I hadn’t heard of it until recently, but the concept makes perfect sense when you think about the expression, “you are what you eat.”

A Nutritional Psychiatrist and trained chef, Dr. Uma Naidoo, has written a book about it called This is Your Brain on Food. She’s the Director of the Department of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. 

Several medical studies show the importance nutrition has on physical health, as well as mental and emotional health. As the author outlines, the relationship between the gut and the brain is strong through the release of hormones during digestion. Less nutrient dense foods or “empty calories” along with dyes, chemicals, and preservatives can cause inflammation in the body. That makes us feel stressed, anxious, and depressed.

The author states eating less inflammatory foods and more nutrient-dense foods calm the body and brain. As food is digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and nutrients, serotonin is released, a hormone that’s lacking in people suffering from depression.

So what should we eat more of to feel better in mind and body? She says to eat the rainbow, for starters. A wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, peppers, and berries, which contain numerous beneficial vitamins and minerals. Foods high in Omega 3’s like sardines, salmon, chia and flax seeds reduce inflammation in the brain. Nuts are a big winner too for their nutritional breakdown.

Foods that should be limited are anything high in sugar or artificial sweeteners, white carbs like pasta and rice, and trans fats as well as shortening and margarine. Substances like caffeine and alcohol should also be cut way back.

Keeping emotional and mental health at the forefront of our food choices is just one more reason to eat healthy. We all know we don’t feel our best after eating a heavy fast food meal. Not only do the extra calories eventually collect on our bodies overtime, which leads to higher risk of chronic disease, it perpetuates a cycle of feeling bad and eating junk. Not that comfort foods are evil, but occasional consumption instead of all the time is the best approach.

The nice thing is that we’re only ever one meal away from feeling better.

Health Bite: Eating for Better Mental Health
Rachel Eslick

For AgNet West’s Health Bite, I’m Rachel Eslick. I can help you reach your health and fitness goals with 1:1 and group training. Visit