Did you know that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month? Since 1949, National Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity for family, friends, and individuals to raise awareness and address the challenges of people in the U.S. living with a mental health condition.1 Learning about mental health research is an excellent opportunity for an individual to raise awareness for mental health disorders and treatment. One growing area in mental health research is the role that nutrition and diet have on mental health outcomes. 

Research suggests that an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables positively impacts mental health, and a daily consumption of vegetables was found to reduce depressive symptoms in people with clinical depression. 2 This could be due to the increased intake of nutrients such as vitamin B1, riboflavin, copper, and calcium, which are involved in the manufacturing of serotonin, an important brain chemical for regulating mood.3 Also, a diet with more whole foods reduces inflammation, increases energy, and improves the gut microbiome, all of which are beneficial to overall mood and mental health.3 In relation to eating disorders, many individuals who have an eating disorder may have nutritional deficiencies due to disordered eating behaviors.4 Increasing the consumption of nutrient-packed foods as a part of eating disorder recovery can reduce the harm of nutrient-deficient based symptoms such as depressive symptoms, lethargy, and cognitive disfunction .4 

As research grows in this field, individuals may see nutrition and diet become a part of their mental health treatment plans. It is an exciting time for mental health treatment research and as new research emerges, individuals can get the opportunity to learn and become better advocates for mental health.  

References: 

  1. Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMI. (2024, April 26). https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month/ 
  1. Tuck, N.-J., Farrow, C., & Thomas, J. M. (2019). Assessing the effects of vegetable consumption on the psychological health of Healthy Adults: A systematic review of Prospective Research. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 110(1), 196–211. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz080 
  1. DeAngelis, T. (2023, June 1). That salad isn’t just good for your nutrition—it may help stave off depression. Monitor on Psychology, 54(4), 36. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/06/nutrition-for-mental-health-depression
  1. Ross, C. C. (2007). The importance of nutrition as the best medicine for eating disorders. EXPLORE, 3(2), 153–157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2006.12.012 

By Julian Robles  

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